JNUTA Report on the university 2016-2021 Part I – Delhi High Court orders

This is the first part of a series of reports on Jawaharlal Nehru University (2016-2021) by the JNU Teachers’ Association.

On 26th January 2021, the five-year tenure of Prof. Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar as Vice Chancellor of JNU will formally come to an end. While there are press reports that confirm that the Search Committee constituted for identifying a replacement has yet to begin its work, which indicates the probability of Prof. Jagadesh Kumar getting an extension till the new incumbent finally takes over; his inevitable departure from JNU is significant.

Over the next few days, JNUTA would like to share with you relevant documentation that shows as to how a public university of the stature of JNU was single handedly destroyed over the last five years by none other than the Vice Chancellor who administered JNU as if it was his personal fiefdom, showing scant regard for the Statutes and Ordinances that had governed  University practices in the past.

In the first part of this series, starting today we would like to reproduce important observations made by the Honourable Delhi High Court on various cases concerning matters of the university. Over the five-year period 2016-21, there have been nearly over 150 cases that have been filed by the JNU community against the current Vice Chancellor and his administration. This high increase in legal cases, represents the tip of the iceberg. Deep within lies the rot which stems from the inability of the Vice Chancellor to engage in dialogue and resolve matters through correct interpretation of UGC guidelines as well as statutes and ordinances of the university, a lacuna in his personality that stems from inordinate conceit in his own abilities or some other ulterior motives.

The question that we seek to raise through this exercise, is can the government afford to deliberately appoint individuals like Prof. Jagadesh Kumar at the helm of power without running the risk of damaging beyond repair the complex entity called the university, of which JNU has been an outstanding example. Further delays in appointing a new Vice Chancellor would by the Government, would only add further to the damages already wrecked.

It is important to note that the repeated illegal onslaughts on enshrined institutional principles of governance over the past five years has led to vast amounts of money being diverted from educational purposes towards defending the untenable in courts of law. As per the financial accounts presented by the university, legal expenses have increased from Rs. 2.72 lakhs in 2017-18 to Rs. 17.7 lakhs in 2018-19. An additional fund of Rs. 30 lakhs was approved by the Executive Council in September 2020, despite the opposition by the elected teacher’ representatives!

The violations highlighted in this note cover a broad category of legal cases filed against the university by aggrieved faculty, students and even the administrative staff of the university, related to violations of individual freedom, human dignity, and matters of institutional and constitutional propriety. We would like to begin with the most recent Order passed by the Delhi High Court on January 11, 2021 in the LPA 15/2021, where the university has been specifically instructed to re-visit and reexamine and re-cast the point based roster, for all posts relating to faculty recruitments. Besides this, there are other examples too, which show how brazen illegalities have been pushed through JNU by the Vice Chancellor and his coterie of select administrators.

Violation of Reservation policy in Faculty Appointments 

In an order passed on 17.11.20 on writ W.P.(C) 4114/2020 & CM No.14769/2020, dealing with the roster issue pertaining to reserved positions, the High Court in its judgement indicted the university for failing to discharge its constitutional responsibilities. The judgement read: “ample opportunities were given to the University to file affidavits but despite a host of affidavits and written submissions, it was unable to demonstrate that the shifting of the points in the two Centres with which this petition is concerned was a mere result of interpolation resulting from recasting of the rosters as per the new OMs and/or the UGC Guidelines”, and ordered the quashing of two faculty posts as per Advertisement Nos. RC/61/2019 and RC/60/2019 dated 19.08.2019.

The January 11, 2021 order passed by the High Court in the LPA15/2021 has called upon the university administration to not just re-visit and reexamine and re-cast the point based roster, for all posts but also that “ if in the aforesaid exercise, any error/mistake in advertising vacancies is found, unless requisite amendments are made to advertisements No. RC/61/2019 and RC/60/2019 dated 19th LPA 15/2021 Page 6 of 6 August, 2019, the said advertisements, to the extent contrary to corrected point based roster, would stand quashed; however the appointments already made shall not be adversely affected; and  that the respondent University, till after fifteen days of the publication of the newly prepared roster points on its website, shall not initiate any fresh recruitment process in pursuance to the advertisements which were impugned in the writ petition or issue any fresh advertisements.”

On the matter of faculty appointments earlier too the Delhi High Court in its Order dated 08.05.2019 in response to interim application (CM No.17195/2019) in relation to W.P.(C) 3528/2017 + W.P.(C) 11116/2017 had deemed the method adopted by the Vice Chancellor to add names to the panel of experts as illegal. The Court in its order found it “surprising that the JNU is seeking to argue contrary to its own statutes.” Suspiciously, even after that, the Vice Chancellor has complied with the Court order only in form and not in substance by misusing his position as the Chairperson of the Academic Council to add his own recommendations to the list and ensuring that his nominees were then inevitably called as experts.

Appointment of Chairpersons 

Through an order passed on 27.4.2018 in W.P.(C) 3462/2018, the Delhi High Court reinstated one Dean and four chairpersons who had illegally been removed by the Vice Chancellor for not agreeing to a decision to impose mandatory attendance for students.

In another case, dated 29.07.2019 in W.P. (C) 8168/2019, the High Court set aside the Vice Chancellor’s order of 18.2.2019 appointing the Chairperson of the Centre of Linguistics and directed the JNU Executive Council to appoint a new Chairperson “in accordance with practice and the law”. This meant appointment from within the Professors of the Centre by following the principle of rotation by order of seniority.

In yet another case of appointment, the Delhi High Court ruled on 25.08.2020 in W.P.(C) 5540/2020 & CM APPL 19962/2020, that in the  appointment of the Dean as Chairperson in a Centre where he was not a faculty, “no substantive decision will be taken by him which could affect the functioning of the Centre, be it apropos the academic syllabus, faculty or personnel to be appointed/retained and/or the technology to be engaged, etc.”

 Non-payment of Salary to two Faculty Members from October 2017 to November 2018

The Delhi High Court in writ W.P.(C) 12636/2018 & amp; CM APPL. 49076/2018 not only instructed JNU to pay salaries of the two faculty within four weeks and also summoned the Registrar in person as well as placed a cost of Rs. 25,000/ -on the university if the payments were not made within the stated time period.  One of the petitioners subsequently left JNU but the other, a woman faculty is still facing harassment from the authorities.

On Leave and Marking of Biometric Attendance for Faculty

In Orders dated 18.01.2019 on W.P.(C) 354/2019 and W.P.(C) 305/2019, the Delhi High Court stayed “the decision taken on 13.07.2018 in 146th (A) Meeting of the Academic Council qua “any other item” and the approval of the Executive Council dated 23.08.2018 in minutes of 275th meeting regarding issue 6.9” in relation to marking of attendance by the faculty and introduction of biometric attendance systems. An earlier order dated 14.01.2019 on W.P.(C) 271/2019 had already stayed the circular issued by the JNU administration dated 13.11.2018 which had linked the processing of “any request/paper/proposal of faculty members, including leave requests” to marking of attendance. A similar order had been issued also on 16.07.2018 on the matter of student attendance which had “directed that no coercive steps be taken against the students, in pursuance of the attendance requirements

On Refusal to Grant Extraordinary leave to Faculty to pursue research fellowship Abroad 

In this case involving a petition by an individual faculty, the Delhi High Court in its order on WP(C)546/2020 on 14.9. 2020 stated the following: ‘The court is a little amazed at the resistance of the University to grant EOL to the Petitioner for his Fellowship… it is a matter of great prestige also for the University that one of its Professors has been offered a Fellowship at a prestigious Institute for Advanced Study in France. In my view the rejection of the application for grant of EOL is completely arbitrary and against the provisions of the Ordinance of the University and contravenes the Wednesbury’s Principles of reasonableness and fairnessDue to the illegal and arbitrary rejection of the request of the Petitioner for grant of EOL, Petitioner was constrained to file the present petition and accordingly cost of Rs. 20,000/- is awarded in favour of the Petitioner.”

Debarring of Faculty members from Participation in Statutory Bodies

In relation to the VC debarring two members of the Executive Council, the Delhi High Court Order dated April 5, 2019 in W.P.(C) 3510/2019 clearly stated that prima facie “the resolution debarring them from participating in the meeting of the Executive Council is contrary to the statutes.

On Charge-sheet filed against 48 Faculty

A Charge-sheet was issued by the JNU administration against 48 faculty for participating in a peaceful protest on campus in July 2018.  However, the Delhi High Court in its order of 14. 08.2019 on petition No. W.P.(C) 8686/2019&CM APPL. 35942-35943/2019 stayed the Chargesheet and the major penalty inquiry proceedings invoking CCS rules against the faculty. This charge sheet were issued by the VC despite the University Executive Council explicit decision in October 2018 that no CCS Conduct rules would be incorporated into the JNU Ordinances on service conditions of teachers.

 On Stopping of Pensions for Faculty post Retirement 

In its Order on the Writ filed W.P.(C) 10619/2019 & CM APPL. 43857& 43858/2019 passed on 23.11.2020, the High Court ruled stating the following: “three things emerge : (i) that pension is neither a bounty nor a matter of grace depending upon the sweet will of the employer and that it creates a vested right subject to 1972 Rules which are statutory in character because they are enacted in exercise of powers conferred by the proviso to Article 309 and clause (5) of Article 148 of the Constitution; (ii) that the pension is not an ex gratia payment but it is a payment for the past service rendered; and (iii) it is a social welfare measure rendering socio-economic justice to those who in the heyday of their life ceaselessly toiled for the employer on an assurance that in their old age they would not be left in lurch. 

There are several other cases pending in Court filed by faculty who have retired and whose pensions and other related payments have been withheld by the administration.

 Wastage of university seats

On the question of admissions and seat cuts in 2018, the Delhi High Court in its order dated 01.10.2018 on W.P.(C) 3032/2017, had reprimanded the University for committing ‘national waste’ by wrongly interpreting the UGC regulations, resulting in vacant positions remaining unfulfilled. It is important to note that in 2020, the same was once again reiterated by the High Court through its Order dated 10.01.2020 on W.P.(C) 9915/2019, which directed the University to follow the judgement of the Division Bench passed in 2018 .

Similarly on the attempt by the University to retrospectively apply the new Ordinances and rules adopted after the Notification of the UGC’s 2016 M.Phil and Ph.D Degree Regulations to those admitted to the University in 2016, the High Court in its Order dated 26 February 2018 on W.P.(C) 9944/2017, quashed the three circulars issued by the University and directed the University “to process the cases of the petitioners as per the UGC Regulations of 2009 and in accordance with their prospectus issued in February 2016.” Following that order, the Registrar had to issue a notice stating that “students admitted to the M.Phil/Ph.D programmes will be governed as per provisions of M.Phil/Ph.D Ordinance(s) prevailing at the time of their admission in the University.”

Denial of Post graduation Degree to a PH Category Student

The High Court on this matter came down heavily on the JNU administration in its order dated 5.08.2019 in the writ W.P. (C) 9878/2018 & CM APPL. 38484/2018, where it stated rather curtly that “in times such as these, therefore the attitude, that the JNU has chosen to adopt, while dealing with the case of the petitioner, can only be characterised as woefully anachronistic.” 

It may be noted that several other students were also forced to approach the courts for submission of dissertations or for getting degrees, marksheets and other university related documents.

To conclude, all these cases cited above provide a small window into the numerous illegalities committed by the Vice Chancellor and serve as a poignant reflection of the vindictiveness that has come to be a hallmark of the Kumar regime. The contemptuous attitude of this VC towards the law, besides the JNU Act, Statutes and rules have not only extensively demoralised faculty and students who would have otherwise been engaged in contributing to significant research  but through his actions, the Vice Chancellor has also besmirched the hard earned reputation of this university. The colossal waste of the taxpayers money as legal expenses, which is directed towards the sole purpose of maintaining his personal fiefdom rooted in personal vendetta, arrogance and lawless authoritarianism has caused such extensive damage to the university system that for generations his tenure will be remembered for his monumental incompetence.

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