Ten central university vice-chancellors have faced action, the most under any government in the country.
New Delhi: The resignation of Motihari Vice-Chancellor Arvind Agrawal, after the HRD ministry initiated an inquiry against him for allegedly forging his PhD, brings the number of central university V-Cs who have faced action under the Modi government to 10.
The past four years have been a tough time for the vice-chancellors of the central universities as the Modi government has cracked the whip on them, including going after university heads it had appointed.
Of the 10, the government got the President’s assent to sack three vice-chancellors, while six others either faced or are facing inquiries, apart from Agarwal’s resignation.
Among the three sacked vice-chancellors, two were UPA appointees and of the remaining seven, four were UPA appointees.
Explaining the process of inquiries against V-Cs, a senior official in the ministry said, “If we get a complaint of irregularity against a university head, financial, academic or administrative irregularity, we first examine the degree of seriousness. If it requires an internal inquiry, then a committee is set up to inquire into the matter.
“If the complaint is more serious we send a request for a visitorial inquiry to the President. Once the President accepts it, he then sends his views back and on the basis of that the ministry recommends action. Final approval has to be from the President.”
The ball was set rolling during the tenure of Smriti Irani as the HRD minister when, in an unprecedented disciplinary action, the Central government sacked Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor Sushanta Dattagupta on charges of financial irregularities.
When Dattagupta, a UPA appointee, was removed in February 2016, it was the first time that the head of a central university had been sacked in the country’s history.
There was no provision in the government’s rulebook to carry out the sacking. To remove Dattagupta, the government invoked Section 16 of the General Clauses Act, 1989, which empowers the appointing authority under any central act or regulation to suspend or dismiss any person appointed. In this case, the authority was the President, who is the visitor of all central universities.
Just months later, in June 2016, the government sacked its second vice-chancellor — Pondicherry University V-C Chandra Krishnamurthy was removed on allegations of plagiarism.
Krishnamurthy too had been appointed by the UPA.
In the case of Jawahar Lal Kaul, the sacked vice-chancellor of the Hemvati Nandan Bahuguna Garhwal University in Uttarakhand, it was an instance of the NDA taking action against one of its own appointees. Kaul was accused of administrative irregularities.
Kaul had been appointed as the vice-chancellor by Irani in November 2014. He was sacked in December 2017.
Apart from this, the government has taken action against seven other V-Cs, including setting up inquiries against them and sending them on temporary leave.
The first to receive a showcause notice from the HRD Ministry was Delhi University V-C Dinesh Singh, as the Modi government unsuccessfully pushed to have him removed months before the completion of his term. Singh was accused of financial irregularities.
An inquiry was launched in 2015 against Singh, a UPA appointee who had a controversial tenure as V-C.
In the same year, the government launched inquiries against Jamia Millia Islamia V-C Talat Ahmed, who faced a ‘visitorial’ probe on allegations of financial irregularities levelled against him by a professor in the university; and the V-C of Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), M. Aslam, in connection with alleged mismanagement in the university.
Both Ahmed and Aslam were UPA appointees.
Other heads of universities who have had to face inquiries include Allahabad University V-C Rattan Lal Hangloo (NDA appointee), Tripura University V-C Anjan Kumar Ghosh (UPA appointee) and Manipur University V-C Adya Prasad Pandey (NDA).
While Hangloo and Pandey were accused of financial irregularities, Ghosh faces charges of nepotism in appointment of faculty and financial mismanagement.
The vice-chancellor of Banaras Hindu University Girish Chandra Tripathi was also sent on unofficial leave by the Ministry in 2017, when the campus erupted in protests following a sexual harassment incident .
No inquiry, however, was initiated against Tripathi at the time, prompting students and faculty to accuse the government of shielding the V-C.