Denied associate prof post in Central varsity, Kasaragod man wins legal battle after 7 yrs

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Kasaragod: In December 2015, when Mohammed Aslam MA applied for the post of associate professor at the Central University of Kerala’s Department of Geology, he was already a full professor in the subject at the Central University of Karnataka in Kalaburagi.
Prof Aslam, a native of Kasaragod town, was ready to take up the junior position because he wanted to be around his ageing parents. But the state’s first central university, under the then Vice Chancellor Prof G Gopa Kumar, resorted to repeated “illegal and arbitrary” actions to deny Prof Aslam the job, according to a judgment of the High Court of Kerala.

The judgment laid bare the nefarious extent to which the university went — such as appointing an ineligible person — to deny Prof Aslam the job.
Settling a seven-year-long legal battle, Justice Mohammed Nias C P on May 21 ordered the university to appoint Prof Aslam to the post of Associate Professor within two weeks, that is by June 4.

How the job was stolen from Prof Aslam
Though the post of associate professor (open category) was notified in December 2015, the Central University published the ranking list for the post only on March 2, 2017. Prof Aslam — a gold medalist and first rank holder from Mysore University — was first on the waitlist. The first rank went to Dr Jayangonda Perumal, a senior scientist at Wadia Institute of Himalayan Geology in Dehradun. 

Dr Perumal joined on October 13, 2017. But in four months, that is on February 14, 2018, he quit the job and returned to his parent organisation. Adv Ibrahim P K, who represented Prof Aslam, told the court that Dr Perumal resigned when Prof Aslam started questioning his appointment and sought information from the university on his research experience.
Nevertheless, when Dr Perumal quit, the one-year validity of the ranking list had not expired and Prof Aslam ought to have been given the job. However, the university did not inform him of the vacancy. Fifteen days later, the validity of the ranking list expired.

Prof Aslam came to know of the vacancy in April 2018 and staked claim to the post but the then VC Gopa Kumar rejected it saying the ranking list had expired. In December 2018, Prof Aslam approached the High Court of Kerala challenging the university’s selection process and seeking his appointment to the post.
In August 2022, even when Prof Aslam’s writ petition was pending before the High Court, Prof Gopa Kumar’s successor Prof H Venkateshwarlu appointed Dr Pratheesh P as associate professor to the post. Dr Pratheesh was an assistant professor in the same department since 2016.

Representational image. IANS


Appointment of the ineligible
The High Court called for all the documents related to the appointment of Dr Perumal and found that he neither filled out the Academic Performance Indicator (API) scores nor submitted any supporting documents to establish his API scores. 
API score is linked to the Performance Based Appraisal System (PBAS) set out in UGC Regulations. Minimum scores of 75, 50 and 300 are required in three categories to be eligible to apply for the post of associate professor, according to the regulations and academic guidelines.

“A perusal of those records reveals that the application submitted by Dr Perumal is defective/ incomplete,” said Justice Nias in the judgment. All other candidates had entered their API scores. “Under such circumstances, I hold that the petitioner (Prof Aslam) ought to have been ranked first in the selection process and offered the appointment which was wrongly given to the Dr Perumal,” he said.
The court also rejected the university’s argument that no candidate could have been appointed after the expiry of the rank list. The court said Dr Aslam could not have known that Dr Perumal had resigned. “Not assigning the first rank to the writ petitioner was wrong, it could have at least offered the appointment when the fifth respondent resigned,” the judgment said.

The High Court also showed little mercy to Dr Pratheesh who was appointed to the post by the university. “He cannot feign ignorance of the fact that he was appointed pending the writ petition… The fact that this court took time to decide the writ petition cannot be taken as conferring any advantage to Dr Pratheesh. The petitioner was wrongly denied the appointment for no fault of his and a meritorious candidate cannot be made to suffer,” said the court in the judgment.

Dr Pratheesh’s counsel Sajith Kumar V argued that Dr Aslam was ineligible for the post of associate professor because he was already a professor with effect from 2015. The court did not delve into that argument because UGC regulations do not bar “over-qualified” candidates from applying. (Adv Sajith was the university’s standing counsel when Prof Aslam filed the writ petition in December 2018.)

The court also did not delve into Prof Aslam’s allegation that Dr Pratheesh did not have the minimum teaching/ research experience of eight years required for the post of associate professor. The High Court said that Dr Pratheesh could be accommodated if there was a vacancy after appointing Prof Aslam as associate professor. 

According to officials, an associate professor’s post in the OBC quota is vacant but Dr Pratheesh is a general category candidate. “But he will not lose his job. He can revert to the post of assistant professor in the same department because the university had granted him a lien of two years,” said an official. Under Fundamental Rules (FR), the lien is the right of an employee to be reinstated to their position within a certain period if they take up another job but choose to return. Dr Pratheesh’s lien of two years would end by July, 2024.



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