JNUTA memorandum to JNU VC on 8 August

Reinstate Prof. Rajeev Kumar! Stop the illegal inquiry against Prof. Nivedita Menon! Schedule CAS interviews for the promotion of CES colleagues now! Stop re-opening EC-ratified decisions and retrospective application of rules! Issue a public apology to CSSS! End arbitrary and humiliating procedures in wardenship renewal!

A delegation of teachers led by Pradeep Shinde, Secretary, JNUTA sought to meet the JNU VC today, but he was not available. The delegation met Rector I, Prof. Chintamani Mohapatra instead, who assured it that he would take the JNUTA memorandum to the Vc And that he would work towards ensuring a dialogue between JNUTA and JNU administration. We enclose the text of the memorandum to the JNU VC.

Dear Prof. Jagadesh Kumar
The JNU Teachers Association expresses its serious concerns at the unprecedented onslaught on the rights of teachers and undermining of institutional processes that the last six months or so have witnessed. We begin by listing the most pressing of these, moving onto more general concerns later.

I. The illegal removal of Prof. Rajeev Kumar, SCSS, from service: JNUTA demands his immediate reinstatement.

Prof. Rajeev Kumar was appointed in JNU on the recommendations of a duly constituted selection committee. He was offered the position of Professor at JNU on a permanent basis (and not on deputation) with a probationary period of 12 months in the first instance, an offer that was approved by JNU’s Executive Council. In order to enable him to take up JNU’s offer, Prof. Kumar was officially relieved from service by IIT Kharagpur. He was also allowed by that institution to hold a lien on his position there for a maximum period of two years, after which he was to be automatically deemed to have resigned that position.

The lien granted to Prof. Kumar gives him, and only him, the right to return to that position should he wish to do so, a right he was free to surrender at any time before the completion of the two year period. Prof. Kumar wrote to IIT Kharagpur surrendering that right both at the initiation of confirmation procedures of the 12 month period in 2016, and then again in 2017 submitting his technical resignation to the IIT Kharagpur authorities.

The JNUTA finds it extremely unfortunate therefore that you issued orders on 5 and 9 June 2017, relieving Prof. Kumar from service. Not only was the request from IIT Kharagpur seeking the repatriation of Prof. Kumar illegal and in violation of the commitments it had made to JNU in its earlier orders, JNU was bound to entertain this request only if it came from Prof. Kumar, as it is he who was the holder of the lien. On 30 June 2017, the Executive Council of JNU, the only body with the power to remove a teacher from service, did not ratify the decision you made to relieve Professor Kumar, when the matter was placed before it for approval.

While this absence of ratification by JNU’s Executive Council should have automatically entailed a withdrawal the relieving order, the JNUTA is extremely distressed to find that the illegal order relieving Prof. Rajeev Kumar still stands. The JNUTA demands that the University Orders dated 05.06.2017 and 09.06.2017 be immediately set aside, and that Prof. Rajeev Kumar is reinstated at once, and his salary restored retrospectively from the date he was relieved.

II. The denial of CAS promotion to three colleagues from the Centre for English Studies. JNUTA demands CAS interviews within three months.

The JNUTA takes grave exception to the illegitimate and illegal denial of promotion to three colleagues from the Centre for English Studies. These cases were not processed in a manner which is in consonance with the UGC Regulations 2010 or the JNU Ordinances. Each of these colleagues were sent letters that simply asked them to re-appear for CAS promotion after three months, and making no mention of any reason for the same.

Shockingly, in the 268th Executive Council meeting of 30 June, these letters were presented as communicating a rejection of their application for promotion, with the consequence that none of the colleagues can apply before a year has elapsed and they shall all lose a full year of seniority. When put together with the fact that flimsy reasons that have no basis in the UGC or JNU rules were raised for delaying these colleagues’ promotions in the first place, the teaching community is extremely agitated that a fair, non-discriminatory appraisal of colleagues’ candidacy cannot be expected of your administration. As the head of the institution, it is necessary that you take proactive steps to dispel the impression that irrespective of the best academic credentials and achievements, all that can be expected from you is a differential application of the same criteria to those you consider to be ‘with you’ vs. those who you hold to be ‘against you’.

The JNUTA demands the reversal of this decision of the EC and an immediate reconvening of the Selection Committees for each of these colleagues’ CAS promotions, without any loss of seniority, and a personal guarantee from you that all CAS interviews will be conducted in a fair manner.

III. JNUTA demands an end to re-opening of ratified decisions and retrospective application of rules

Previous Executive Council decisions regarding the counting of past service, payment of allowances, and other aspects of employment are being revisited and re-opened, including decisions made by Selection Committees. Threats of financial recovery and demotion are being selectively used to try to coerce and intimidate select teachers. One glaring example of this is the manner in which one case of counting of past service has been singled out and sent to the UGC for ‘clarification’.

The JNUTA demands that the University administration bring this victimisation of a colleague to an immediate end, as there is perfect clarity that there can be no retrospective application of any law or rule. It also demands that all pending past-service cases be processed in accordance with the JNU rules duly approved by the Executive Council that have been in force and the long overdue CAS promotions of many teachers be done without any further delay.

IV. The CSSS Entrance Exam issue: JNUTA demands a full enquiry and a public apology.

The Centre for the Study of Social Systems and specifically the colleagues involved in the evaluation of the JNUEE of 2016-17 have been severely maligned by sources highly placed within your administration. The JNUTA demands a full enquiry into the how entirely fabricated information found its way not only into the press but also the Executive Council. Why was the Centre not informed that an inquiry had been instituted into the CSSS EE evaluation for the year 2016-17? Why did the Inquiry committee not interview the colleagues involved in the evaluation that year, and present false and misleading information that a dismissed faculty member was one of the evaluators, when this was not the truth? How and by what hand and in whose knowledge did the ‘leak’ of 30 answer scripts to the Times of India come about? Why was the integrity of CSSS evaluation not defended the Centre’s request for an official press release through the Public Relations Office ignored?

The JNUTA thinks that the only amends that can be made now are through a public acknowledgement that the CSSS has been severely maligned, and a formal apology by you, on behalf of your team, to the CSSS is in order.

V. Denial on the principles of natural justice to Prof. Nivedita Menon in Executive Council inquiry headed by Prof. Bidyut Chakrabarty.

In July 2017, members of the JNU Academic Council came to be informed of an Inquiry Committee constituted by the Executive Council, headed by Prof. Bidyut Chakrabarty through letters inviting depositions from them about the role of faculty members in the alleged entry of students into the 142nd Academic Council meeting on 26 December 2017. No terms of reference for this Inquiry Committee have ever been made public, and it is not known who the other members of this Committee are, what (service) rules it is constituted under.

The teachers of JNU are now aghast to learn that the focus of this Inquiry has become Prof. Nivedita Menon, and that she has been issued a final notice to appear before this Inquiry committee. All the information that she has been given is that she has been named by “some faculty members” as “disrupting the AC meeting” and and that an unspecified “we” have been shown a video of her addressing students at the Administration Block. Neither the so-called complaints made against her, nor the identity of the complainants, nor the reasons why the Committee has chosen to rely on the prima facie veracity of these complaints has been provided to Prof. Menon.

On the receipt of this letter, Prof. Menon put before you the grounds for her legitimate apprehension of bias by this Inquiry Committee, given her role in an earlier inquiry against its Chairperson. In the same letter, Prof. Menon stated that she was willing to appear before a reconstituted Inquiry Committee and provided she was supplied all the information about procedure, terms of reference, details of the alleged complaint and supporting materials thereof. However, to date, Prof. Menon has not received any communication or reassurance from you or the JNU Registrar that has addressed her concerns about potential bias, principles of natural justice and due process in a substantive manner.

The JNUTA is appalled that attempts at victimisation of a woman employee and blatant denial of the principles of natural justice and due process are being condoned by the Vice-Chancellor of JNU. Prof. It demands that this Inquiry Committee, whose intent seems to be more in the nature of a witch hunt than fact-finding or disciplinary, be wound up at once.

VI. Renewal of Wardenship. JNUTA demands end to arbitrary and humiliating procedures.

In the matter of appointment of wardens, your office been unilaterally appointing wardens, usurping the authority of the provosts that have been specified in the Hostel Manual adopted by the Executive Council. Moreover, the appointment/renewal process is marked by rampant arbitrariness and is being deliberately used to humiliate and harass colleagues. Many serving warden colleagues have been summarily removed, or asked to vacate wardens’ accommodation, causing great inconvenience to them and their families. The JNUTA demands that the process of appointment of wardens be strictly as per the hostel manual and the long-standing conventions in respect of renewal of tenures be respected.

The JNUTA, reflecting the overwhelming sentiment of the teaching community, sees the issues listed above as symptoms of an extremely arbitrary and authoritarian culture of functioning that has become the norm with the JNU Administration headed by you. Teachers — in their individual capacities as teachers, as individuals occupying positions of responsibility within the University set-up and as members of centres or schools and of statutory bodies – are being subject to unprecedented disrespect and humiliation on an almost daily basis. Decisions are being taken without any proper consultation and bypassing all statutory processes –- the announcement of a major decision to open new schools without any discussion in the statutory bodies of the University is a case in point. The disastrous consequences of such an authoritarian functioning can be seen in the fiasco of the admissions this year which are threatening to destroy, among other things, JNU’s research programmes. The integrity of the selection process of faculty to be appointed in the University has also become unnecessarily questionable.

The JNUTA wishes to remind the JNU Administration that the University is no one’s personal fiefdom. It is an institution that belongs to the people of India and we are all collectively responsible for ensuring that it delivers on the purpose for which it exists. We would therefore be failing in our duty if we were to remain silent spectators to the immense damage that is being done to the institution by the Administration under your leadership. Hence this memorandum and our demonstration.

Yours truly,
Pradeep Shinde
Secretary, JNUTA

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