Acting on a bunch of public interest litigations (PILs), the Bombay high court on Wednesday ordered a search committee to be formed by the University of Mumbai (MU) to reconsider the eligibility of Dr Rajan Welukar for the post of vice-chancellor.
The division bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and justice BP Colabawalla directed the chancellor (governor) of the university to constitute a search committee within two weeks. It directed the committee to re-examine Welukar’s eligibility for the post within four weeks thereafter.
The PILs, filed by social activists Niteen Deshpande and Vasant Genu Patil, and Dr AD Sawant, former vice-chancellor of the Rajasthan University, questioned Welukar’s appointment on various grounds, primarily contending he did not fulfil the requisite eligibility criteria for appointment.
The directive came in view of a decision by another division bench of the court – comprising justice PV Hardas and justice Anuja Prabhudessai – holding that the decision of the search committee to shortlist Welukar as an eligible candidate for the post suffered from non-application of mind. The referral bench, which heard the matter on two issues after judges on the earlier bench gave a split verdict, had also concluded the high court should exercise its extraordinary jurisdiction and direct a search committee to reconsider the question of Welukar’s eligibility.
Accordingly, the bench, headed by the Chief Justice, on Wednesday ordered the formation of the committee. The court also granted liberty to the petitioners to put additional material before the search committee.
This liberty was granted after their counsels said further information obtained by them under the Right to Information Act revealed Welukar did not possess basic requisite qualification of 15 years teaching experience. Even the period of 13 years of his teaching experience cannot be counted because he had been appointed on an ad-hoc basis, and thus was not a teacher in the eyes of law, the petitioners’ counsels said.
Before Welukar was appointed MU vice-chancellor in July 2010, a search committee, headed by Professor AS Kolaskar, vice-chancellor, KIIT University, Bhubaneshwar and comprising of Professor P Balaram, director, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore and JS Saharia, principal secretary, Relief and Rehabilitation, had first short-listed 20 candidates, including Welukar, from the list of 98 applicants. It recommended five names and ultimately the governor selected Welukar for the post.