Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Bombay HC quashes President’s order appointing IIM Nagpur director as acting VC of Hindi University

The Bombay High Court’s Nagpur bench quashed and set aside the ‘illegal’ appointment of Dr. Bhimraya Metri, director of the Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Nagpur, as the acting Vice-Chancellor (VC) of Mahatma Gandhi Antarrashtriya Hindi Vishwavidyalaya (MGAHV), a central university in Maharashtra’s Wardha, on Thursday, March 28th.

The order came following a petition filed by Lella Karunyakara, a Dalit professor, who was supposed to become the acting VC as per the University Act 1996, being the senior-most faculty of the same university, after the previous VC, Rajneesh Kumar Shukla, resigned for his alleged involvement in a case of sexual harassment.

The University Act 1996 states: “If the office of the Vice-Chancellor becomes vacant due to death, resignation or otherwise, or if he is unable to perform his duties due to ill health or any other cause, the Pro-Vice-Chancellor shall perform the duties of the Vice-Chancellor: Provided that if the Pro-Vice-Chancellor is not available, the senior-most professor shall perform the duties of the Vice-Chancellor until a new Vice-Chancellor assumes office or until the existing Vice-Chancellor attends to the duties of his office as the case may be.”

The court on Thursday maintained that the President of India, as the ‘visitor’ or ‘Chancellor,’ may appoint any senior professor as the acting Vice-Chancellor, and the executive committee of the varsity may take steps to appoint the regular VC subsequently.

The court stated, “Metri is in no way connected with the MGAHV because he is already appointed as the director of IIM Nagpur and in any case, cannot perform the duties of VC as an additional charge.”

Additionally, “Deputy Solicitor General of India (DSGI) N Deshpande has committed an error in handing over the additional charge of MGAHV to Metri, till the new Vice-Chancellor is appointed”, the court remarked.

The court also questioned the counsel representing the university administration that why the charge of acting VC was not given to the senior most professor or the next senior most professor of the university if the position was vacant.

It also made clear that DSGI can take afresh decision if they want to appoint a Vice-chancellor but ‘in accordance with law’.

It is important to highlight that the university administration suspended and expelled five students on 27 January this year for protesting against the appointment of Metri as an acting VC citing it as illegal and against the University Act.

The expelled and suspended students, Ramchandra, Rajesh Kumar Yadav, Niranjan Oberoi, Rajneesh Ambedkar and Vivek Mishra protested on January 26, during the Republic Day celebrations and highlighted that Metri’s appointment goes against the University law and is illegal.

Only 2 of these 5 students demonstrated the physical protests on the Wadha campus showing black flags bearing ‘illegal VC go back’ and the other 3 highlighted it on their social media handles.

Ramchandra, doctoral fellow in Women Studies at Prayagraj Centre of the varsity sees this order as a ‘development’ and calls it ‘a win of revolutionary students’.

He told Maktoob, “This is the first step in the progress of reclamation of revolution in the campus. Educational institutions should be headed by people who are true to their positions and those positions should be retained legally and in accordance with the law.”

“Even the court has stated that the university may appoint the VC but by the law”, he added.

He continued, “The other struggle continues as we are still seeking the revocation of our unjust suspension and expulsion and we are sure the court will do justice.”

The matter regarding the suspension is still in the court.

Another student Vivek Mishra was expelled and forced to vacate the hostel following the protest. He had been protesting outside the gate of MGAHV in Wardha but halted it in view of the Model Code of Conduct ahead of the Lok Sabha 2024 polls.

Mishra said, “The Court order is an assertion, that we are not wrong and our protest was just and fair. It also substantiates that the VC’s appointment is illegal.”

“We now seek the rollback of disciplinary action taken against us for protesting against the illegal VC. We hope that we will get justice”, he added.

Mishra was on a sit-in protest for 48 days outside the entrance of the university yet no authority from the varsity’s administration came to communicate or listen to his demands.  

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