SC clubs challenge to AMU VC appointment with minority character issue

New Delhi: A three judge bench examining whether Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) was a minority institution or not will also hold hearing on a plea challenging the appointment of Lt.Gen. Zameeruddin Shah (retd.) as its Vice Chancellor.

The bench of Chief Justice T.S. Thakur, Justice D.Y.Chandrachud and Justice L. Nageswara Rao sent the matter to the bench headed by Justice Jagdish Singh Khehar as Shah argued that the challenge to his appointment as VC could not be divorced from the question of the varsity’s minority status.

Directing the hearing on January 10, Chief Justice Thakur said: “We will direct its hearing (challenge to the appointment of Shah) along with that (of the minority status of AMU). Let it not go in cold storage.”

The bench headed by Justice Khehar is hearing a 2006 plea by the then UPA government contesting Allahabad High Court verdict striking down the 1981 amendment to the Aligarh Muslim University Act, 1920, which held that the AMU was an institution established by the Muslims in India.

The amendment sought to override a 1967 top court constitution bench judgment in Azeez Basha case wherein it had said that AMU was not a minority institution.

However, the Marendra Modi government has already moved the court seeking to withdraw the petition.

In the course of the hearing on Tuesday, counsel Prashant Bhushan told the bench that AMU was bound by the University Grants Commission regulations providing that a person to be appointed as Vice Chancellor should be a distinguished academician, having highest level of competence, integrity, morals and institutional commitment.

Bhushan appeared for Syed Abrar Ahmed who has challenged the October 16, 2015, judgment of the Allahabad High Court refusing to quash appointment of Shah.

However, senior counsel Salman Khurshid, appearing for Shah, told the court that UGC regulations could not override the AMU Act which lays down a procedure for the selection and appointment of the Vice Chancellor.

He told the court that the general regulations can’t have an overriding effect on the specific statutes governing the AMU alone.

While Bhushan argued that the challenge to the appointments of Shah as VC had nothing to do with AMU’s minority characte, Khurshid countered that if UGC regulations were to take away even the selection and appointment of the VC, then what was left to a minority character of AMU.

Senior counsel Raju Ramachandran appearing for the AMU told the court that the VC was not a teacher but an officer looking after the affairs of the university.