President’s office wades into V-C appointments in DU, JNU

The NDA government appeared headed for another round of bitter confrontation with the academia, this time over the appointment of vice-chancellors in two of the country’s most prestigious institutions — Delhi University and the Jawaharlal Nehru University. The development comes in the wake of the resignation of nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar from the board of governors of IIT Bombay and the subsequent decision of Raghunath K Shevgaonkar to quit as the director of IIT Delhi.

Through representations routed through leaders of Opposition parties, faculty members of the two universities have sought President Pranab Mukherjee’s intervention into “serious violation of statutory norms” and “interference” by the human resources development ministry in the selection process. Responding to one such representation sent by Janata Dal (United) leader KC Tyagi, the President’s officer on special duty (OSD) Suresh Yadav informed in a letter dated January 11 that the complaint has been forwarded to the HRD ministry for “appropriate attention”.

“The NDA government has been systematically working at destroying academic institutions with aims of imposing a communal agenda,” Tyagi alleged. Crying foul over the insertion of a fresh pre-qualification clause requiring applicants to have “at least 10 years experience as professor”, the teaching staff of the two universities are asserting that this was “in contravention of the statutes laid down for the two universities by an act of Parliament”.
Faculty members are also protesting the ministry’s directive to the universities to place advertisements defining the format of the selection process.

Identical advertisements for the two posts were published in a Delhi newspaper on August 5 and August 15. “So far, it had been the search committee’s prerogative to conceive and follow a particular mode of selection. By setting out a defined format and inserting pre-conditions violative of the statute of the two universities, the ministry is attempting to tinker with procedures, possibly in pursuance of ulterior motives,” one DU professor alleged.

HT sent out a questionnaire to the HRD ministry on the issue, but no response was received 
till late Friday night. In a separate memorandum to the office of the President, leaders of women’s organisations and “concerned citizens” have also strongly objected to a particular candidate whose name has featured in the list of names forwarded by the search panel for the top job in Delhi University. The particular candidate has been accused in a case of sexual harassment. “A candidate with such a black mark should not have been considered at all for the top job,” JNU professor Nivedita Menon said.

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