HC dismisses plea challenging Jamia VC appointment

New Delhi:┬áThe Delhi High Court Friday dismissed a plea challenging appointment of Jamia Millia Islamia’s (JMI) current Vice Chancellor Najma Akhtar, saying there was no merit in the petition as her appointment was justified.

The high court said the petitioner has not been able to show that any express provision of either the University Grants Commission (UGC) Regulations or the JMI Act has been flouted while making the appointment of Akhtar as the Vice-Chancellor of the university.

Justice V Kameswar Rao, in the 49-page judgement, highlighted the position of law that court cannot sit in appeal over the decision taken by the Search Committee, set up to select prospective candidates for the post.

Rather the scope is limited to judicial review of the decision whereby the court is only concerned with whether the incumbent possessed qualifications for the appointment and the manner in which the appointment came to be made or whether the procedure adopted was fair, just and reasonable

“The above discussion shows the appointment of respondent no.2 (Akhtar) is justified. I do not see any merit in the petition. The petition is dismissed, the judge said.

The court passed the verdict on the petition by M. Ethesham-Ul-Haque, an alumnus of Faculty of Law at JMI, challenging the appointment of Dr. Najma Akhtar to the post of VC of the university, claiming that there was violation of regulations issued by the UGC and JMI Act.

The high court had in January last year sought responses of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), UGC, the varsity and its VC on the petition.

Additional Solicitor General Chetan Sharma, representing the Centre, opposed the petition and submitted that the standard procedure was followed by it for appointment of the VC of the varsity, including seeking vigilance report of the recommended candidates from the concerned stakeholders.

Additional Solicitor General Vikramjit Banerjee assisted by advocates Fuzail Ayyubi and Pritish Sabharwal, representing JMI and its VC, contended that the petitioner has failed to point out any single statutory violation in the appointment process of Akhtar.

The petitioner, through senior advocate Akhil Sibal and lawyers Abhik Chimni and Mobashshir Sarwar, had alleged that Akhtar’s appointment was invalid for the reasons that the search committee was constituted illegally and that she had been denied CVC clearance initially.

The denial of clearance was revoked after the MHRD’s intervention, the petition has alleged.

“It is submitted that the entire process culminating into the impugned appointment of Najma Akhtar is a colourable exercise of power and in flagrant violation and total non-compliance of the statutory provisions of the Jamia Millia Islamia Act, 1988,” it has claimed.

The petition had sought that her appointment as VC be declared as “illegal, arbitrary, void ab initio and non est in law”.