“Can a university itself be termed as a minority institution,” the Supreme Court today asked during the hearing of a plea seeking a direction to quash the appointment of Aligarh Muslim University’s vice-chancellor Lt Gen (Retd) Zameeruddin Shah. The remark by a bench comprising Chief Justice T S Thakur and Justice U U Lalit came when senior advocate Salman Khurshid, appearing for one of the parties, submitted that it has to be seen to what extent the apex court can interefere in the matter in view of the fact that another bench was dealing with the issue whether AMU was a minority institution.
“If it is declared that it is a minority institution, then it has to be seen as to how far a direction can be given,” he submitted, with Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi referring to the Centre’s stand that the AMU cannot be accorded a minority status.
“The Union of India is not going to proceed with its appeal,” he said and added that the appeal against Allahabad High Court judgement in the apex court would be withdrawn.
The apex court posted the matter after four weeks by impleading the Human Resource Development Ministry as party to the petition and sought the AG’s assistance in the matter.
The hearing also saw senior advocate Kapil Sibal, who was present in the courtroom for another matter, to say that the present VC was appointed by him during his tenure as Union HRD Minister in the erstwhile UPA regime.
An alumni of the university has filed the appeal challenging the Allahabad High Court’s October 16, 2015 order holding there was “nothing wrong with the procedure” adopted in the appointment of present VC whose tenure ends next year and a search is already on for his successor.
The appointment of Shah as VC of AMU on May 11, 2012 was challenged on the ground that according to the regulations of University Grants Commission (UGC), the VC ought to have worked for at least 10 years as a professor in a university or on an equivalent post in a research or academic institute.
The petitioner, Syed Abrar Ahmed, had argued before the high court that the regulations - which pertained to minimum qualifications and maintenance of standards in higher education - had become binding on the AMU when it had adopted these on December 6, 2010.
Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, contended that the high court had “erroneously refused to quash the appointment of the VC, in contradiction of the mandatory provisions of the UGC Regulation, 2010”.
Senior advocate Raju Ramachandran, appearing for the AMU and its VC, defended the appointment saying the UGC regulation was not necessary in the case. Bhushan contended that the appointment of the VC of AMU is contrary to the UGC Regulations, 2010.