The Calcutta High Court on Tuesday dismissed the state government’s decision to reinstate Sonali Chakraborty Banerjee as the Vice-Chancellor of Calcutta University last year.
A division bench of Chief Justice Prakash Srivastava and Justice Rajarshi Bharadwaj observed that the state government has no power under the Calcutta University Act to appoint or reappoint the Vice-Chancellor. (Section 8(1)(b) of the Act in clear terms provides that the Vice-Chancellor will be appointed by the Chancellor.)
“The order of reappointment of the respondent no. 4 (Sonali Chakraborty Banerjee) dated 27th of August, 2021 as Vice-Chancellor, Calcutta University, issued by the State Government has no legal force and is void in the eyes of law and non-existent, hence liable to be set aside. It is a fit case for issuing the writ of quo warrant,” opined the court.
“We find that the State had no authority to appoint or reappoint the Vice-Chancellor… The order of appointment dated 27th of August, 2021 issued by Special Secretary, Government of West Bengal, reappointing the respondent Sonali Chakraborty Banerjee as Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University cannot be sustained and is hereby set aside and the prayer for the issuance of a writ of quo warranto against her is allowed by holding that Sonali Chakraborty Banerjee has no authority to hold the office of the Vice-Chancellor, Calcutta University based on appointment order dated 27th of August, 2021.
The petition is accordingly allowed,” reads a portion of the court order.
Sonali is the daughter of the late poet Nirendranath Chakraborty and wife of Alapan Bandopadhyay, former chief secretary of the state and chief advisor to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
The state government had in August 2021 announced its decision to reappoint Sonali Chakrabarti Banerjee on the grounds of the ‘Removal of Difficulty Clause’. However, the decision was challenged in court by advocate Anindya Sundar Das, who filed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court, alleging that Sonali’s reappointment wasn’t done following rules and that there were procedural errors in her reappointment. The state advocate general S N Mukhopadhyay argued that as per the rules of Calcutta University, the reappointment of a Vice-Chancellor is different to that of any appointment for the same post. Mukhopadhyay argued that her appointment was made as per the provisions of the University Grants Commission (UGC).
Billwadal Bhattacharya, the lawyer for the plaintiff, said that in case of reappointment, the West Bengal Governor needs to accept the decision of the state government, but then Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar wasn’t given any prior information.
After the court’s order, Bhattacharya said that the hearing lasted for several days and the court heard both parties. “The court has said that the Vice-Chancellor is no longer the Vice-Chancellor from the time of the announcement of this judgment. She has been removed,” said Bhattacharya.
According to official sources, the state government is likely to move the Supreme Court against the HC decision.
Dhankhar had then raised various questions on the reappointment and files were being exchanged between the Raj Bhavan and Nabanna on the matter.
Courtesy : The Indian Express