HC seeks state govt’s response on PIL alleging delay in appointment of Pune University V-C

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The Bombay High Court recently issued notice to the Principal Secretary of the Higher and Technical Education department of the Maharashtra government seeking his response to a PIL that demanded implementation of existing provisions of the Maharashtra Public Universities Act, 2016 for appointment of Vice Chancellor (V-C) of Savitribai Phule Pune University (SPPU) – a post that has been vacant since May.

A division bench of Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice Kishore C Sant on August 12 passed an order on a PIL by Pune resident and retired professor Dhananjay Kulkarni along with Bageshree Manthalkar, senate member of the SPPU.

The plea claimed that there has been no effective and timely implementation of the 2016 Act, adding that important positions in the university, including that of vice chancellor, are lying vacant.

The petitioners told the court that the post of V-C had fallen vacant on May 18 and the additional charge given to Karbhari Vishwanath Kale, V-C of Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Technological University, Lonere, Raigad.

Advocates Anjali N Helekar, Anu C Kaladharan and Manali Chipkar for the petitioners referred to section 11 (5) of the Act in their plea.

The said provision stipulated that the process of setting up the panel of suitable persons for being appointed as the V-C shall begin at least six months before the probable date of occurrence of the vacancy. Moreover, the process of appointment of the V-C shall be completed at least one month before the probable date of occurrence of the vacancy, he added.

Helekar said that only a partial process was initiated in this regard.

The petitioners referred to February 18 “reminder” communication by secretariat of the Governor office to the Principal Secretary of the state government requesting to communicate the nominee of state government for the search committee to be constituted for the selection of V-C of Pune University. The said letter also made reference to earlier communications of November, 2021 and January, this year.

In response, the Principal Secretary of the Higher and Technical Education department on February 23 had informed the Governor office that as soon as the approval is granted by the Minister concerned, the names of nominated members on behalf of state government to the panel would be immediately communicated.

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Helekar submitted that in spite of the letter, there was no further progress in the matter. The petitioners argued it may not be appropriate for the state government to keep such an important position in an academic field lying vacant without there being an effective implementation of 2016 law.

The bench noted in the order: “Considering above referred facts and submissions of counsel for the petitioner, we deem it appropriate to issue notice at this stage only to respondent principal secretary of state government, making the same returnable on September 5.”