Vice Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar. Photo Credit: The Indian Express.

Delhi HC says JNU VC had no power to appoint chairpersons to nine centres; restrains them from taking major decisions

IN a major setback to Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Vice-Chancellor (VC) Prof M Jagadesh Kumar, the Delhi High Court has restrained nine chairpersons of different centres from taking any major decisions, including functions relating to the convening of selection committees, after observing that the power to appoint those chairpersons lay with the cExecutive Council and not the VC.
A division bench of Justices Rajiv Shakdher and Talwant Singh was hearing an appeal filed by the university’s professor Atul Sood against an interim order of a single judge bench refusing to stay the appointments and adjourning the matter to February next year. The division bench has now requested the single judge to advance the hearing of the petition filed by Sood and directed its listing on November 10.
The court observed the power to appoint the chairpersons was expressly conferred upon the Executive Council and thus the appointments made by the VC were prima facie without any authority of law.
It also took note of the fact that the petitioner had objected to the agenda for the 296th meeting of the executive council and informed the University authorities that the appointments made by the VC were flawed.
“Prima facie, the respondents were put to notice that the course on which they were proceeding was, perhaps, not the correct course. Despite this, respondent no.2, it appears, went on to appoint the Chairpersons of the concerned Centres/Special Centres”, the Court said.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Abhik Chimni contended that the appointments of the chairpersons could not emanate from the VC since the statute of the University confers power to appoint a chairperson on the Executive Council. It was also contended by Chimni that to get over this legal lacuna, the approval on the appointments made by VC was obtained from the EC at its 296th meeting held on September 02, 2021.
Advocate Monica Arora for the JNU contended that the VC made the appointments in the exercise of his power under Statute 4(5) of the Statutes of the University. This clause confers power on the VC to exercise the powers, where immediate action is required on account of an emergent situation, which then is reported to the concerned authority.
The Court rejected the University’s argument, calling it “tenuous”.