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Bhat to face inquiry at NUJS, resolves executive council as goes for administrative rinse in latest meeting [UPDATE-1]

Bhat has left NUJS, but an inquiry is to start now into his tenure
Bhat has left NUJS, but an inquiry is to start now into his tenure

Former NUJS Kolkata vice chancellor Prof Ishwara Bhat, who resigned last month under student and state government pressure, will face an inquiry committee convened by NUJS Kolkata acting vice chancellor, retired Justice Amit Talukdar, it was resolved on 12 May.

According to the minutes of the 61st meeting of the NUJS executive council (EC), convened on 12 May, a committee would inquire into the “allegations” against Bhat, consisting of the current acting vice chancellor Talukdar, Justice Ashim Kumar Roy, advocate general Kishore Datta and the judicial secretary.

Bhat’s resignation took effect from 7 April, on the conclusion of the EC meeting, after relaxation of the requirement of one month’s notice on resignation, given the circumstances of his resignation.

All his financial emoluments, including the notice period salary, were directed to be released immediately.

Attendees

The meeting was attended by the following 14 members: Acting VC Talukdar, former Calcutta high court judge Ashim Kumar Roy, current Calcutta high court justice Jyotirmay Bhattacharya, Supreme Court justice Arun Mishra, West bengal law minister Moloy Ghatak, West Bengal advocate general Kishore Datta, NUJS treasurer Jishnu Saha, Tezpur University Prof Virginius Xaxa, Dr Anupa Guha Majumdar and NUJS professor Dr Anirban Mazumder, IIM Kolkata director-in-charge BN Srivastava, West Bengal education secretary RS Shukla, West Bengal judicial secretary Bibek Chaudhuri and NUJS associate professor Bikramjit De.

The Student Juridical Association (SJA) was also represented at the meeting and a fact finding committee comprising Talukdar and Datta was resolved to be constituted to look into the irregularities in the universities that the SJA had mentioned in a letter submitted one day before the EC meeting.

New administration search committee to be formed

The EC requested the chancellor for his nominee to chair the search committee for selection of Bhat’s successor at NUJS, and requested the West Bengal government nominate the other two members of the search committee at the earliest.

NUJS will also have a new acting registrar as it was resolved that the current acting registrar Sarfaraz Ahmed Khan would hand over the charge to Calcutta high court registrar general Madhumati Mishra.

The search for a NUJS’ next permanent registrar will also begin now, as it was resolved to advertise the vacancy subject to the decision of the high court in the writ filed by former registrar Dr Surajit Mukkhopadhyay against his dismissal.

NUJS faculty member Anupama Ghoshal will serve as the new assistant registrar (administration) and new accounts and finance officers are also to be appointed at the earliest.

Review Commission Report

Discussion on the review commission report was deferred to the next meeting of the EC, however it was directed that the actions to be taken and reports to be filed as recommended by the university review commission should continue.

Distance learning courses: To be considered

The EC did not have a conclusive view yet on the validity of various distance learning certifications provided by NUJS, which had been challenged in 2016 by advocate Pinaki Ranjan Banerjee in the Calcutta high court.

Since all private distance learning courses were currently kept on hold at NUJS, the EC resolved to maintain that status quo until further discussions on this subject.

Update 21 May 2018: We have reached out for comment to former SJA president Arjun Agarwal, who was present at the EC meeting. He said:

Decisions of the Executive Council and the Academic Council since the former Vice Chancellor, Prof. (Dr.) P. Ishwara Bhat demitted office last month have resulted in rebuilding student confidence in the University’s administration. We thank them for giving us patient hearing in their recent meetings.

The appointment of Justice (Retd.) Amit Talukdar has brought a breath of fresh air to the campus. Finally, the students are being heard by their Vice Chancellor. Under his leadership, the Executive Council and Academic Council have already been appraised of some of the very many serious matters that they might have earlier been kept in the dark about due to a concerted effort by the former Vice Chancellor and a few of his aides.

Resultantly, there are natural concerns surrounding the inability of internal Executive and Academic Council veterans in keeping these statutory bodies appraised of these very pressing matters. There is also no evidence to suggest that these aides advised the former Vice Chancellor against questionable and potentially illegal actions and ommissions.

We feel that Justice Talukdar, himself having served the Executive Council as an external member, is best placed to help bridge the information gap between various stakeholders and these Hon’ble statutory bodies.

We further thank the Executive Council for bringing changes in the Registrar (Acting) and AR (Administration) positions. Consequently, we expect a responsive, transparent and invigorated administration with a change of guard in both these vital positions in conjunction with the leadership of Justice Talukdar.

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