The Supreme Court on Tuesday came down heavily on the West Bengal government, stating that in order to re-appoint Sonali Chakravarti Banerjee as Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University, the State had ‘usurped’ the powers of the Chancellor (State Governor).
The Bench of Justice D.Y. Chandrachud and Justice Hima Kohli disposed of the pleas filed by the West Bengal government and Banerjee, challenging the Calcutta High Court verdict, which had set aside the State government’s decision to re-appoint Banerjee as the VC of CU.
The Apex Court did not find any fault with the High Court order and noted that it was correct both in facts and in law.
The Bench observed that the State, in order to remove the obstacles which could have arisen due to statutory restrictions, misused the ‘removal of difficulty’ clause under the Calcutta University Act, and usurped the power of the Chancellor to make the appointment.
As per the Apex Court, allowing such action would be antithetical to the rule of law misusing the limited power granted.
On September 16, the top court of the country had reserved verdict on the petitions filed by the State Government and the ousted Vice-Chancellor against the High Court verdict.
The West Bengal government was represented by Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, while Senior Advocate Jaideep Gupta appeared for the ousted VC.
Senior Advocate Ranjit Kumar appeared for petitioner Anindya Sundar Das, a practicing Advocate of the Calcutta High Court.
On August 27 last year, the state of West Bengal had issued a notification, re-appointing Sonali Banerjee as the Vice-Chancellor with effect from August 28, 2021 for a period of four years or till she attained 70 years, whichever was earlier.
Anindya had filed a public interest litigation before the Calcutta High Court contending that the Vice-Chancellor had been reappointed to the post in August, 2021 by the Principal Secretary of the State’s Higher Education Department in violation of the provisions of the Calcutta University Act, 1979.
The High Court had allowed the petition holding that the State Government lacked authority to make the re-appointment without the approval of the Governor.
Case title: State of West Bengal v. Anindya Sundar Das