High Court invalidates appointment of Panjab University’s UILS head

The Punjab and Haryana High Court invalidated Panjab University’s appointment of Professor Sarabjit Kaur as the Director of the University Institute of Legal Studies (UILS), asserting that the Principal/Head of UILS at Panjab University must hold the minimum prescribed qualifications in Law as mandated by the UGC under the 2008 Rules.

The Bench of Justice Harsh Bunger directed, “impugned order dated May 31, 2023, appointing Professor Sarabjit Kaur as Director of University Institute of Legal Studies, Panjab University is unsustainable in the eyes of law and the same is accordingly set aside”.

The Bench directed the PU and UILS to initiate and complete the process of appointing the Director/Head of UILS, in compliance with norms of affiliation.

The decision came following a petition by Professor Shruti Bedi, a faculty member at UILS, who sought her appointment as the Director based on seniority and eligibility in accordance with the Rules of Legal Education,
2008, and Panjab University’s Calendar, 2019. Professor Bedi’s counsel, Senior Advocate DS Patwalia with Kannan Malik, argued that appointing Professor Sarabjit Kaur, a Political Science professor, as the head of IILS
on June 1, 2023, disregarded regulations mandating the Director of UILS to be a Professor of Law.

Professor Bedi claimed that earlier she and the other Law faculty of UILS Institute had submitted a representation dated September 14, 2022 to UILS specifically raising the issue of the appointment of a Director highlighting that only the next senior-most Professor of Law in UILS could be eligible for appointment as a Director and a candidate/faculty member, who is not a Professor in the Field of Law, should not be considered for the said post. A representation was also forwarded to Bar Council of India (BCI), whereupon the BCI had issued a letter stating that the Head or Dean of Department of Law of a University is required to have minimum 15 years of teaching experience in law.

Festive offer

The PU and UILS submitted there is no sanctioned regular post of Director in the Department (UILS) and the designation assigned to the appointee is only honorary.

Justice Bunger on hearing the matter at length held that the applicability of 2008 Rules upon UILS of Panjab University being a “Centre of Legal Education” is not as per choice and/ or on the basis of self serving interpretation of 2008 Rules by PU and UILS. The Bar Council of India, being the Governing body, in cases of institutions imparting Legal Education in India, has framed/promulgated 2008 Rules which was preceded by a detailed exercise undertaken by body of experts.

“Concededly, the University Institute of Legal Studies (UILS) was established in the year 2004 and the 2008 Rules were enforced subsequently i.e. from the Academic Year 2009-2010. Therefore, Panjab University as well as UILS were very well aware of their faculty set-up and also the courses undertaken at UILS”, said the Bench.