Vice Chancellor, University of Kerala Vs. Dr. Tresa Radhakrishnan [Kerala High Court, 23-02-2011]

Kerala University Act, 1974 – Section 17(13) – List for Nomination – Seniority or Rotation – University Departments – Senate – Vice Chancellor – Seniority referred to in the Section is seniority of the Department and not interse seniority of the Heads of various Departments.

Vice Chancellor

2011 (2) KLT 110 : 2011 (2) KLJ 302 : ILR 2011 (2) Ker. 47 : 2011 (2) KHC 258



The Hon’ble MR. Justice K.SURENDRA MOHAN

Writ Appeal Nos.261 & 271 of 2011

Dated this the 23rd day of February, 2011.

WA.No. 261 of 2011




Ramachandran Nair, J.

The connected Writ Appeals are filed against common judgment of the learned Single Judge vacating the orders of nomination of Senate members by the Chancellor under the category reserved for Heads of Departments of the University as provided under

Section 17 (13) of the Kerala University Act, 1974

(hereinafter called “the Act”). We have heard Senior counsel appearing for the appellants and counsel appearing for some of the contesting parties, all of whom took notice on admission and argued the matter.

2. Writ Petition was filed by the Head of the Department of Aquatic Biology and Fisheries which is a Department under the University of Kerala, first respondent in both the Writ Appeals, challenging appointment of seven Heads of Departments of the University as Senate Members by the Chancellor based on the recommendation of the Vice Chancellor. The learned Single Judge found that the selection by the Vice Chancellor was not in accordance with the statutory provision and all what the Chancellor did was to approve the list of candidates sent by the Vice Chancellor for selection. The appellants’ case is that the Vice Chancellor prepared the list of eligible Heads of Departments strictly in terms of the statutory provision and the Chancellor accepted the same. In order to consider the controversy, we have to necessarily refer to the relevant provision of the Act which is as follows:


The Senate shall consist of the following members, namely:-

………. ……….

(13) Seven heads of University departments who are not otherwise members of the Senate, to be nominated in the order of seniority by the Chancellor by rotation”.

The object of the above provision is obviously to have the various Departments of the University represented in the Senate through the Heads of the Departments. Since all the Departments cannot be represented at a time, representation by rotation is provided based on the seniority. The Act came into force on 27.7.1974 and when the first nomination was made on 30.12.1975, the University had only 24 departments. However, in the course of last several years the number of Departments increased and as of now, the University has 41 Departments. Going by the above provision, at a time only 7 Departments can have representation in the Senate through the Heads of Departments and the tenure of the Senate members is two years. So much so, it takes six terms i.e. around 12 years, to have every Department represented once in the Senate. In other words, in a cycle of every 12 years, each Department would have represented once in the Senate. Nomination by rotation and in the order of seniority referred to in the above provision obviously means that nomination should be based on the seniority of the Departments or in other words, the first established Department will get first nomination in preference to the Departments established later. Once a full cycle is over providing representation to all the Departments, the next cycle should start from the top and the same should continue. From the details furnished to us what is clear is that so far nominations have been made from Heads of Departments on an erratic manner without following any system. Going by the statistics furnished, we notice that the last representation of the first Department i.e. Aquatic Biology and Fisheries, the Head of which is the petitioner in the W.P.(C), in the Senate was in 1986 which means that for quarter of a century that department had no representation. Going by the last year of nomination of the Heads of Departments of various Departments in the Senate, we notice that the Departments of Geology and Linguistics had no representation in the Senate for the last 28 years. The position is almost same for Departments of Mathematics, Biochemistry, Education, Psychology etc. where the Departments had no representation for the last over 20 years. While the case of the first respondent who is the petitioner in the W.P.(C) is that if rotation by seniority is taken, the present nomination by the Chancellor based on advice by the Vice Chancellor is unsustainable, the case of the appellants is that all the seven Departments, the Heads of Departments of whom are nominated, had so far only one representation in the Senate, while most of the other Departments had two or more representations in the Senate so far. In fact, even after nominations of the seven Heads of Departments as of now, still a few more Departments are left which were started recently which had represented the Senate only once. Counsel for the appellants specifically pointed out that the Departments of Computer Science, Islamic Studies, Law, Future Studies and Institute of Management in Kerala were started 20-25 years back and all these Departments were only once represented in the Senate and, therefore, the nomination of the Heads of these Departments a second round is not violative of Section 17(13) of the Act. However, counsel for the respondents specifically pointed out the cases of Departments of Opto electronics and Biotechnology which were started in the year 1995 and were already represented in the Senate through nominations made in 1995. In the course of just over 15 years the Heads of these Departments are nominated a second round to the Senate, while ever so many Departments as stated above have not been represented in the Senate for 22-28 years.

3. The learned Single Judge while considering the W.P.(C) called for report from the Chancellor’s office and the Chancellor fairly conceded that he did not make any nomination of his own, but made nominations by just following the list submitted by the Vice Chancellor. The Vice Chancellor’s recommendation sent to the Chancellor vide his communication dated 11.5.2010 is produced in this court along with Ext.R1(a) statement submitted on behalf of the Chancellor. It is seen that the Vice Chancellor has not forwarded the details of representations of Departments hitherto made in the Senate and he has in fact prepared a list of 12 persons stating that the same is prepared in the order of seniority by the Department and by rotation in terms of SEction 17(13) of the Act. The learned Single Judge holding that the Chancellor has not exercised jurisdiction in accordance with the statute, set aside the same with direction to the Chancellor to reconsider the matter and issue fresh orders strictly based on the norms prescribed under the statute.

4. We do not find any ground to interfere with the judgment of the learned Single Judge because the Chancellor has fairly conceded that he has only gone by the advice of the Vice Chancellor who as already stated above has not prepared the list for nomination in accordance with the seniority or rotation for representation of the various University Departments in the Senate in terms of Section 17 (13) of the Act. As already found by us, seniority referred to in the Section is seniority of the Department and not interse seniority of the Heads of various Departments. This obviously means that the Departments started by the University should get representation in the order in which such Departments were started and once the cycle is complete, repeated round of nomination should start from the beginning. What is seen from the details furnished is that out of the Heads of seven Departments nominated, five were last represented in the Senate through nominations made in 1995 and so far as the other two are concerned, i.e. Departments of Computer Science and Law, the last nomination of those Departments to the Senate was in 1988 and 1989 respectively. Since several Departments were not represented in the Senate for the last 22 years, we feel such Departments should get preference over those which are represented in 1995. Of course only seven Department Heads can be nominated now and there are more than seven Departments which were not represented for the last more than 22 years. From among the equally eligible Departments to be considered for selection for nomination, we feel the Chancellor should take into account the number of previous representations such Departments got in the Senate so that Departments which got the lesser number of representations should get representation this time. In any case the Chancellor has to make selection by taking into account the statutory provision as explained by us above. It is not for the Vice Chancellor to make selection and send it to the Chancellor for approval. The Chancellor certainly needs the assistance of the Vice Chancellor and in this regard he has to furnish the relevant particulars such as the names of Departments, year of their establishment and the years in which the various Departments were given representation in the Senate for the Chancellor to consider while making selection. Writ Appeals are accordingly disposed of upholding in principle the judgment of the learned Single Judge and by directing the Chancellor to make selection to the Senate from the Heads of the Departments in terms of Section 17(13) of the Act and in the light of our observations above and observations and directions of the learned Single Judge which are consistent with our findings above. However, we make it clear that election to the Syndicate can go on.