College principals can serve beyond 5-year term as HC quashes clause in UGC regulationsUpdated: Apr 28, 2020, 16:58 IST
College principals can now continue to hold their posts till retirement, as the Bombay high court (HC) on Monday quashed a clause in the University Grants Commission (UGC) regulations, 2010, that converted their permanent posts into term posts of five years.
A bench of justices ZA Haq and Manish Pitale struck down clause 5.1.6(d) of the UGC regulations, stating it was “manifestly arbitrary.”
UGC amended the regulations in 2016 and introduced the clause which capped the term of college principals to five years. It is extendable to another five years, provided the incumbent successfully undergoes the selection process and an external peer review.
Twelve college principals, from Vidarbha region, had moved HC challenging the clause’s validity. They argued that the amendment arbitrarily curtailed the age of superannuation of college principals and because of it they will be unemployed once their 5-year tenure ends.
UGC responded to the petitions, contending that the concept of term appointments and external peer review was well-founded and was based on an internationally accepted practice. It stated that the clause’s introduction had become necessary to keep principals on their toes so that they excel both in academics and administration.
The bench, however, refused to accept the justification.
“It is difficult to accept the contentions of the UGC that only by introducing such curtailed tenure of appointment...the incumbents would be kept on their toes and that only by such method they would excel in academic and administrative fields,” stated the bench.
“If the management finds a person appointed to the post of principal not performing...steps can certainly be taken against such a principal. But by introducing the aforesaid clause and virtually converting a permanent post into a tenure post, the action is rendered arbitrary and unsustainable.”
It added that when a person joins a particular service, the age of retirement is known and based on experience and addition of qualifications, such a person expects his/her career graph to move in a particular direction.
Upon the introduction of the clause, the span of service of principal stood curtailed and the incumbent was to be discontinued from service much before the age of retirement, the bench stated. “This is an assault on the legitimate expectation of petitioners and other similarly situated persons. Therefore, it can certainly be held to be an unreasonable restriction on such persons and their expectation of career progression,” it added.