Amidst governor vs govt tussle, MG University VC Dr Sabu Thomas may get another term

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Dr Sabu Thomas | Photo: G Sivaprasad/ Mathrubhumi

Thiruvananthapuram: The Kerala government has informed governor Arif Mohammed Khan about its desire to re-appoint Dr Sabu Thomas for another term as vice-chancellor of Mahatma Gandhi University, Kottayam. If the re-appointment is approved, the formation of a selection committee and other related procedures will be omitted.

Dr. Sabu Thomas retires on May 27 at the age of 61, on completion of his first four-year term. The governor, who is also the chancellor of the university, sought the government's opinion in letting Dr Sabu continue until a permanent VC is appointed. The government expressed interest in giving him another full term in its reply to the governor.

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The reappointment of Dr Gopinath Ravindran as Kannur University VC last year had triggered legal and political battles between the state government and the governor. The 'Save University Campaign Committee', a group that sparked multiple controversies in higher education, complained to the chancellor that the reappointment was illegal. Khan claimed Dr Raveendran was appointed based on the education minister's recommendation. However, the high court trashed the case, giving a moral boost to the state government.

Later on, the tussle between the government and governor further widened over appointments of VCs and faculties in state universities. Eventually, the government moved a Bill to appoint independent chancellors to state universities. However, the governor is yet to assent the Bill. Although the government has also passed a bill to change the composition of the selection committee for VCs, the governor has not yet approved it either. It also appointed an independent chancellor at Kerala Kalamandalam deemed-to-be-university.

The government is not inclined to create a selection committee as per the existing law as it gives the union government an upperhand. The attempt of chancellor Khan to form a committee at Kerala University was thwarted using the government-controlled university Senate by delaying recommending its representative to the selection committee. It is likely that the government will make similar moves if Khan forms a search committee at MG University. In the case of Malayalam University, the higher education department announced a five-member committee and asked the chancellor to recommend his nominee. This irked Khan as it is usually his office that announces the committee.

However, by re-appointing Dr. Sabu Thomas, all these procedural hurdles can be overcome. The age limit for the VC position at MG University is 65. The university act provides provision for reappointment as well.

The government stated in the letter that if Dr. Sabu Thomas is not reappointed, they would suggest another suitable candidate to temporarily fill the post.

It is anticipated that the governor will accept the government's recommendation. He may direct the higher education minister, who serves as the Pro-Chancellor, to issue an appointment order approving the re-appointment. It may also be recalled that Khan had sent show-cause notice to Dr Sabu to explain why he should not be sacked from the post, following the Supreme Court verdict nullifying the appointment of technological university VC Dr Rajasree MS.

As of now, six universities and one deemed-to-be university in Kerala lack full-time VCs. They are the University of Kerala, APJ Abdul Kalam Technological University (KTU), Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS), Kerala Agricultural University (KAU), Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT), Thunchath Ezhuthachan Malayalam University, and Kerala Kalamandalam deemed-to-be university.

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