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Delhi High Court dismisses challenge to appointment of Dr. Najma Akhtar as Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia

The Delhi High Court on Friday dismissed a petition challenging the appointment of Dr. Najma Akhtar as the Vice-Chancellor of the Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi (M Ehtesham-ul-Haq vs UOI & Ors).

The judgement was passed by a single-judge Bench of Justice V Kameswar Rao.

The petitioner, advocate M Ehtesham-ul-Haq, had alleged that the entire process which culminated in the appointment of Dr Akhtar as the Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia was a colourable exercise of power and in flagrant violation of the Jamia Millia Islamia Act, 1988 (JMI Act) read with Clause 7.3.0 of the UGC (Minimum Qualifications for Appointment of Teachers and other Academic Staff in Universities and Colleges and Measures for the maintenance of standards in Higher Education) Regulations, 2010.

As per the petitioner, the Search Committee constituted for purposes of appointment of a Vice-Chancellor was marred by illegalities.

The Search Committee inter alia recommended three names including Akhtar’s, out of the 13 shortlisted candidates subject to vigilance and other clearance, vide a completely non-speaking order, without recording reasons, it was claimed.

The petitioner added that although the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) initially denied clearance to Dr. Akhtar, the same was revoked by the MHRD’s intervention which was impermissible in law.

The Central government opposed the maintainability of the petition and argued that all procedures were duly followed.

It was stated that the petitioner failed to point out any statutory violation in the appointment process and has rather sought to enter upon apprehensions/imaginative allegations.

In view of the documents in relation to the appointment process and the credentials of the persons who formed part of the Serach Committee, the Court observed that there was due application of mind on the competence/suitability of the names recommended.

The Court noted that it was anyway not the petitioner’s case that the candidates recommended were not eligible to be recommended for being appointed as Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia.

Since clause 7.3 (ii) of the UGC Regulations did not contemplate reasons to be given against each name at the time of recommendation, the Court stated that it was not necessary for the Search Committee to do so in the present case.

After analysing the other allegations put forth by the petitioner, the Court held that he had not been able to show that any express provision of either the UGC Regulations or the JMI Act had been flouted while making the appointment of Akhar as the Vice-Chancellor.

The Court, therefore, concluded that the appointment of Akhtar was justified.

“I must highlight the position of law that Court cannot sit in appeal over the decision taken by the Search Committee. Rather the scope is limited to judicial review of the decision whereby the Court is only concerned with whether the incumbent possessed qualifications for the appointment and the manner in which the appointment came to be made or whether the procedure adopted was fair, just and reasonable,” the order said.

Senior Advocate Akhil Sibal with Advocates Abhik Chimni, Mobashshir Sarwar, Nitya Gupta, Sonali Malik, Lakshay Garg appeared for the petitioner.

Centre was represented by ASG Chetan Sharma with Standing counsel Kirtiman Singh and Advocates Amit Gupta, Vinay Yadav, Akshay Gadeock, Sahaj Garg, RV Prabhat, Waize Ali Noor, Rohan Anand.

Akhtar was represented by ASG Vikramjit Banerjee with Standing counsel Fuzail Ayyubi and Advocates Pritish Sabharwal, Shruti Agarwal, Tanvi, Ibad Mushtaq, Akanksha Rai. UGC was represented by Advocates Apoorv Kurup, Nidhi Mittal.

Central Vigilance Commission was represented by Advocates Ravinder Aggarwal, Girish Pande.


Via Bar & Bench
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