Assistant Professor’s Post Sanctioned & Financed Under UGC Plan Cannot be Dissolved Unilaterally by University: SC
The Supreme Court of India in Sushil Kumar Tripathi vs Jagadguru Ram Bhadracharya Handicapped university & anr– Civil Appeal No.6255 of 2021 – held the termination of service of an Assistant Professor by the respondent-university illegal and self-abolition of the post sanctioned and financially supported by the UGC, in which the appellant was rendering his service, irregular.
The bench consisting of Hon’ble Justice Dr. Chandrachud and B.V. Nagarathna held
…that the termination of the services of the appellant was illegal and not in accordance with law. Consequently, we set aside the impugned order passed by the High Court and allow the appeal. In the circumstances, the respondent-University is directed to reinstate the appellant as Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science and also grant him the benefit of continuity of services only for the purpose of pension and retiral benefits, if any.
Aggrieved by the judgement of the Division Bench of the High Court of Judicature of Allahabad in Civil Misc. Writ Petition No. 20470 of 2007 judgment dated 08.02.2008, the respondent appealed to this court.
The respondent university was established in the year 2001 as per the rules under the University Grant Commission Act, 1956. The university made a statute in the year 2002 framing rules and regulations for various faculty including the faculty of Social Science. In April 2004 the University Grants Commission (UGC) under the 10th plan granted the respondent university financial support for one lecturer in the Department of Political Science. Following an advertisement published on 03.07.2004, the appellant applied for the post of Assistant Professor in the respondent university for a vacancy in the Department of Political Science. The appellant was selected and was appointed through a letter dated 04.12.2004 with a pay scale of rupees 8,000-13,500/-. The appellant wrote an application to the Vice-chancellor of the university seeking Ph.D. incentives as per the rules of UGC. The Registrar of the University replied on 19.07.2006 that his post was only for the 10th plan and the same was expiring on 31.03.2007 and accordingly he will be terminated from the service on the said date. On 01.03.2007 the appellant was communicated by the Registrar of the University about his termination and abolition of his post.
Aggrieved by the decision of the university the appellant filed a writ before the Allahabad High Court, where the court held that there was neither illegality in the termination of his service nor in the abolition of the post under the Department of Political Science. Deeply distressed the appellant approached the Hon’ble Supreme Court through a Special Leave Petition (SLP).
The counsel for the respondent university submitted that the appointment of the appellant was under a scheme of the UGC sanctioned under the 10th Five Year Plan and the said appointment had come to an end upon the expiry of the said plan on 31.03.2007. Besides, the university also did not wish to continue the post.
Upon inspection of the appointment letter, the court observed that the post of the appellant was not contractual but was made under the 10th five-year plan. The court impleaded UGC in the petition as the second respondent for more clarification of the plan. Thereafter, the grievance of the appellant was forwarded to the expert committee of the UGC, but the expert committee did not find any merit.
Finding the report defective, the appellant requested for re-examination and a new expert committee was formed. The findings of the committee were interpreted as:
On perusal of the communication dated 13th November, 2008, sent by the Vice-Chancellor of the respondent-University to the appellant herein, it was clearly indicated that the appointment of the appellant was not on contractual basis and in fact, the appellant was shown as permanent employee in letter dated 22nd January, 2006, written by Vice-Chancellor of the University to Deputy Director, Distance Education Council. It further stated that the post held by the appellant was sanctioned and financially supported by the UGC under the Tenth Plan, and the same would not have been automatically abolished at the end of the Plan.
The Committee further observed:
The respondent-University had the power to abolish any department but not the post sanctioned under the Tenth Plan by the UGC.
Drawing conclusion from the Committee’s report, the court setting aside the order and directing the university to reinstate him held:
The appellant will not, however, be entitled to any disbursement of salary for the period from 31st March, 2007, till the date of reinstatement as he has not worked for the said period on the principle of “no work, no pay”. The appellant is, however, entitled to notional fixation of salary and other benefits in the event other persons similarly situated to the appellant, have been extended such benefits by the University.
In conclusion, the court adjudged the termination of the services of the appellant as illegal.
Rasmita Behera | Research Intern | EduLegaL
Swapna Iyer | Legal Editor | EduLegaL