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Who's really harming JNU? Faculty condemns VC's counter-affidavit, allege harassment

Priyata Brajabasi | Updated on: 9 July 2017, 15:42 IST
(Burhaan Kinu/Getty Images)

The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administration appears to be at war with some of its most prominent faculty members.

The University has filed a counter-affidavit against the faculty members who went to court accusing the Vice-Chancellor M Jagadesh Kumar of violating University regulations in the process of faculty recruitment.

Catch spoke to a prominent faculty member at JNU, Professor Ravi Srivastava, who condemned the University administration's counter-affidavit.

“Ever since the present VC has been appointed, there has been a dramatic erosion of institutional practices in JNU,” he said.

The counter-affidavit filed by the JNU administration was scathing in its attack on the academicians. It said that a small group of "so called scholars of eminence" were damaging the reputation of the "great university" by accusing the Vice Chancellor of violating his position in the process of faculty recruitment.

This was in response to the writ petition filed by Srivastava and a few other prominent faculty members like Bishnupriya Dutt, Jayati Ghosh, G Arunima and Ranjani Mazumdar against the VC's nomination of experts in the selection committee for recruitment of new faculty.

The group of teachers went to court in April with a petition that said “the UGC Regulation unambiguously and clearly provide that the V-C shall have the power to nominate experts to the Selection Committees from the approved data base of Panel of Experts”.

Srivastava, a professor of economics at JNU, said, “The regulations say that the names of the experts have to be nominated by the relevant university body which in this case is the Academic Council and that the V-C can only nominate from the among the panel of experts that has been recommended by the Academic Council”.

Elaborating on the norms, he said, “In fact, the University norms go beyond that and say that the centres and the schools concerned first send a very detailed list of names. Those names are confirmed by the Academic Council and they form the panel from which the V-C selects experts in the selection committee. This has been the practice since 1998 UGC regulation and then there is a 2010 UGC regulation.”

However, the affidavit filed by the university countered the allegation saying that there has been no violation of statutes and the "action taken was urgent in nature, inescapable and essential to ensure that deadline for admission process is met without any hassle”.

The affidavit further said, "In fact, in the garb of statutes, etc. a small group of so-called scholars of eminence are bent upon damaging the well-earned reputation of this great University and trying to derail the entire recruitment process for teaching posts which the university wants to speed up because of more than 300 vacancies”.

But Srivastava maintains that there has been a clear violation. “The VC has used an executive council regulation of 1997 which predates both the UGC regulations of 1998 and 2010 as well as the university statute. The VC has nominated experts by himself without allowing the Academic Council to take a decision on this issue.”

Some JNU faculty members even feel that the violation of the statute for the recruitment process will have serious implications on the quality of faculty recruited. They said no Vice Chancellor from any university can select experts by himself for the selection committee, without the recommendations of the diverse range of faculty that the Academic Council covers.

Srivastava added, “The legal route is always the last resort but the V-C refused to have discussion with faculty members on any issue. JNU processes have always been democratic, until now”.

The faculty members even slammed the VC for continuing to nominate experts in the panel even while the matter was sub-judice. “The VC is saying that a group of 'so-called eminent scholars' are disrupting the smooth functioning of the university, but the VC has gone ahead and made a number of selections even after the petition was filed. The ideal thing to do should have been that the process of nominating and selecting of experts should have slowed since the matter was sub-judice. The V-C should have waited to hear the court’s view. But that was not the case.”

The court has fixed the matter for further hearing on September 8.

The petitioners' counsel Vrinda Grover had claimed that the Vice-Chancellor, by “usurping the power to add names beyond the approved list of Panel of Experts, is acting without the authority of law and in direct contravention of the aforesaid Statutes, Rules of the JNU Act and Ordinance”.

First published: 9 July 2017, 15:42 IST
Priyata Brajabasi @PriyataB

Priyata thinks in words and delivers in pictures. The marriage of the two, she believes, is of utmost importance. Priyata joined the Catch team after working at Barcroft Media as a picture desk editor. Prior to that she was on the Output Desk of NDTV 24X7. At work Priyata is all about the news. Outside of it, she can't stay far enough. She immerses herself in stories through films, books and television shows. Oh, and she can eat. Like really.