The Supreme Court on Tuesday kept on hold the plea made by AD Sawant, former vice-chancellor of Mumbai university (MU), seeking formation of a new search panel to reconsider MU vice-chancellor Rajan Welukar’s appointment to the post.
The SC, however, agreed to hear Sawant’s application along with the special leave petition (SLP) filed by Welukar against two Bombay high court orders regarding the formation of a new committee to rethink his appointment. The joint hearing will take place in July.
A three-judge bench comprising CJI HL Dattu, justice Sharad Bobde and justice Arun Mishra heard Sawant’s plea, which was made a month after SC issued an interim stay on the HC orders.
On February 27, in a relief to Welukar, the SC had stayed HC’s December 2014 order, which said the search panel that appointed Welukar “suffered from non-application of mind”, and a February 2015 order that directed the Governor to form a new search committee to reconsider Welukar’s research papers – a crucial requirement for appointment as V-C.
In his application, Sawant requested SC that the report of the new search committee be kept in a sealed cover till Welukar’s SLP is decided. However, the Apex Court did not accept the request. Sawant’s lawyer argued that the application would become infructuous, as Welukar’s five-year term ends on July 7 and court is due to go on a vacation.
Shekhar Naphade, senior lawyer representing Welukar, said, “The SC did not accept the plea made by Sawant to vacate its interim stay against orders of the Bombay high court. The SC has already given a stay on the Bombay high court order. There cannot be a judicial investigation when a search committee has verified and found Welukar eligible.”
Welukar was not available for comment despite several attempts to reach him. Although Welukar’s tenure ends on July 7, according to Dilip Taur, senior lawyer representing Sawant, the court can blacklist Welukar for future appointments if the search committee finds him ineligible.
“The Chief Justice said the court would go into the issue itself and if found ineligible, it would be a ‘black mark’ on the vice-chancellor. The Chief Justice has said it was not dismissing Sawant’s application, but has kept it for joint hearing along with Welukar’s SLP,” said Taur.