Kerala’s Left-led government today decided to remove Governor Arif Mohammad Khan as Chancellor of Universities in a sharply escalating confrontation that has been building up for days.
Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan’s cabinet voted to bring in an ordinance or special order to remove the Governor from the post. Effectively, the Governor will be asked to sign off on an ordinance that cuts down his role.
Kerala Higher Education Minister R Bindu said the government wants to replace the Governor with expert academicians as chancellor of universities in the state.
The state government’s move is the latest in its war of words with Governor Arif Mohammad Khan over the functioning of universities, including the appointment of Vice Chancellors. The Governor had said on three recent occasions that he did not want to stay Chancellor because of the mess. At one of those events, it was the Chief Minister who had requested him to stay on.
State Law Minister P Rajeev denied that the government is trying to snub Mr Khan. “The appointment of a chancellor is a statutory position. We can amend the law and appoint a chancellor,” said the minister.
The state government’s play comes days after the Governor asked the Vice Chancellors of all nine universities in the state to resign. The Vice Chancellors later approached the High Court challenging the Governor’s order.
It all started when in October, the Supreme Court sacked Dr Rajasree MS as Vice Chancellor of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University (KTU) in Thiruvananthapuram citing a violation of university rules. The appointment had been approved by the Governor as Chancellor.
According to the rules, the Chancellor has to appoint the Vice Chancellor from a list of names recommended by an official committee. But the government named only Rajashree MS in its recommendation. The Supreme Court said the Chancellor “had no other option” before him as there was no list of names.
After the sacking, the Governor appointed Ciza Thomas as Vice Chancellor in-charge of the university. The state government requested the High Court to cancel the appointment. The court yesterday refused to do so.