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HomeIndiaGovernancePresident scraps Visva-Bharati V-C appointment, starts selection process afresh

President scraps Visva-Bharati V-C appointment, starts selection process afresh

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On HRD ministry advice, President withdraws his own assent to V-C appointment. Ministry writes to University to set up new selection committee.

New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind has ‘reconsidered’ and ‘withdrawn’ his assent to the appointment of Prof. Swapan Kumar Datta as vice-chancellor to the Visva-Bharati university in Santiniketan. The President acted on the advice of the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry, scrapping the entire panel of names proposed for the V-C’s position and starting the whole selection process afresh.

It is believed that after the President’s initial nod, the ministry argued that a better panel of names may be needed for the top post at the university. The change in the ministry’s position is also learnt to have ruffled some feathers at Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The President of India is Visitor to all central universities. In the case of Visva-Bharati, the prestigious varsity founded by Rabindranath Tagore, the Prime Minister of India serves as its Chancellor.

The Prakash Javadekar-led ministry is learnt to have already written to Visva-Bharati asking for a fresh set of names to constitute a new selection committee. The University Court and the Executive Council have to propose a name each towards the composition of the selection committee. A third member nominated by the Visitor will chair this committee, as per the Visva-Bharati Act, 1951, and its statutes. This selection committee will then will propose three names for the Vice-Chancellor’s position.

Visva-Bharati has not had a full time vice-chancellor since February 2016 when Sushanta Dattagupta was removed from office on grounds of irregularities. Prof. Datta held the charge till he reached retirement age on 28 January 2018, after which Prof. Sabuj Koli Sen was named acting V-C. There is ongoing confusion about her continuation in the position, as she is set to complete her term on 24 February. The HRD ministry is learnt to be seeking legal opinion on how to ensure that an acting V-C is able to hold fort at the university.

The university and its V-Cs have had a troubled relationship with the HRD ministry over the last few years, with the latter cutting short Dattagupta’s tenure despite reservations in Rashtrapati Bhavan.

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