Kerala HC Upholds Appointment of CM Secretary's Wife as Associate Prof of Kannur University
In a recent development, the Kerala High Court delivered its judgment regarding the eligibility of Priya Varghese, the spouse of Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan's private secretary K.K. Ragesh, for the position of Associate Professor in the Malayalam Department of Kannur University. The ruling stated that Varghese possesses the necessary qualifications for the role. This decision comes after a single bench, presided over by Justice Devan Ramachandran, had previously reviewed a petition from the second-ranked candidate, Jacob Skariah, and ruled that Varghese did not meet the prescribed qualifications set by the University Grants Commission (UGC), thereby requiring a re-examination of her appointment. However, a division bench nullified the earlier verdict, which poses a setback for Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan, who had initially halted her appointment. Ragesh, a former member of the CPI(M) and a close associate of Vijayan, belongs to Kannur, further emphasizing the significance of this ruling.
Jacob Skariah, the second-ranked candidate who had approached the single bench last year, responded to the division bench's decision by stating that he would consult his legal counsel and take appropriate action. He also mentioned considering the possibility of approaching the Supreme Court after thoroughly reviewing the new verdict. Skariah argued that the current ruling appears to contravene the UGC's 2018 guidelines, which clearly state that the three-year duration taken by Varghese to complete her PhD cannot be counted as teaching experience, and her service as a student director cannot be regarded as teaching experience either.
Interestingly, an incident came to light last year through an RTI query, revealing that Varghese received the highest marks (32 out of 50) in the personal interview, while Skariah scored 30. However, Varghese's research score was significantly lower at 156, while the second-ranked candidate obtained 651. Nevertheless, Varghese secured the top rank based on the personal interview.
In response to the verdict, Varghese expressed her satisfaction, stating, "I was deeply distressed by various media reports at that time, but now I am delighted that my position has been vindicated."