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Nalsar recovers: New registrar, BC exonerates fac, Dhanda becomes ‘de facto’ chief

Kumar: New registrar
Kumar: New registrar

Nalsar Hyderabad has left behind it the dramatic events of last year that culminated in the resignation of its then-vice chancellor (VC). An investigation by the Andhra Pradesh bar council has now exonerated senior faculty members who were alleged to have enjoyed financial and administrative privileges under the previous administration, while the controversial post of dean of academic affairs has been abolished, and Prof Vijender Kumar has been appointed as registrar.

Background

In early 2012 Legally India had published a judicial committee report dated September 2011 that accused Nalsar’s then vice chancellor (VC) Veer Singh of favouritism, financial irregularities, abuse of authority and presiding over gross academic indiscipline.

The committee’s findings were based on complaints lodged by Nalsar students and faculty, and interviews with the constituting Supreme Court and high court judges.

The report, when revealed through Legally India’s right to information (RTI) request, also mentioned Nalsar professors Prof KVS Sharma and Vijender Kumar as beneficiaries of Singh’s alleged abuse of power.

Sharma was accused of having used a car owned by the school for personal business, while Kumar was mentioned in relation to 14 allegations, including illicit financial gain from university funds, leakage of exam papers, and enjoying administrative roles out-of-turn.

Bygones become bygones

In July 2012 the judicial report was placed before Nalsar’s academic council, which constituted an inquiry committee headed by the chairman of the Bar Council of Andhra Pradesh, Narsimha Reddy.

Reddy absolved both Sharma and Kumar of all charges, stating in his report: “It is very clear from the judges committee report that no notice or personal opportunity was given to the professors concerned seeking their explanation with regard to the above charges.

“After going through the charges and the explanation offered by the concerned professors […] I am of the considered opinion that charges levelled against the professors are not sustainable.”

The report was accepted by Nalsar’s executive council.

[Download Reddy's enquiry report (40-page PDF, 840KB]

New lease of admin life

Kumar was appointed as Nalsar’s registrar in February 2013 – the third since March 2012 when Prof Madubhushi Sridhar was replaced by Prof KVS Sharma as registrar.

Current Nalsar VC Prof Faizan Mustafa who took over from Singh in March 2012, told Legally India that Kumar was the first “regular registrar” in the history of Nalsar.

Unlike previous registrars, who had been appointed at the discretion of the then officiating VC, Kumar was found by a search committee constituted by the executive council, after a national newspaper advertisement for the position was published in June 2012, said Mustafa.

The search committee comprised of Mustafa, former RMLNLU Lucknow VC Balraj Chauhan, NUJA Assam VC Prof Gurjeet Singh, and the Lokayukta of Karnataka Bhaskar Rao.

The final shortlist of three also included Andhra Pradesh HC assistant registrar BV Satyanarayana and Lal Bahadur Shastri University constitutional law professor Prof AS Ramachandran.

Mustafa: De jure
Mustafa: De jure
Aid grants

It is understood that Kumar’s appointment could save the university between Rs 15 and 20 lacs per year as against registrars hired externally, who would have demanded higher salaries.

“Nalsar is facing financial constraints, also because a number of courses were stopped last year. The revenue [from those courses] was not there,” said Mustafa, adding that around Rs 1 crore of revenue was lost due to the courses’ scrapping.

The September 2011 report had criticised a number of Nalsar courses as interfering with the main functioning of the university.

Nalsar received a University Grants Commission (UGC) sanction for almost a Rs 9 crore grant after the UGC late last year again allowed central funding of national law schools, as reported by Legally India.

Mustafa said that under UGC rules more than Rs 1 crore from that amount had lapsed because of non-utilisation before 31 March 2012, despite it having been sanctioned only by September 2012.

However, Rs 5 crore out of the remaining grant, and a Rs 4.5 crore capital grant from the Andhra Pradesh government were now available to the college, he noted.

Dhanda: Restructuring
Dhanda: Restructuring
Restructuring strengths

The post of dean academic affairs – held by Prof Amita Dhanda since it was created in 2011 – became a source of controversy during Veer Singh’s last three months at Nalsar as potentially rivalling the VC’s administrative power. In December 2011 Dhanda filed a sexual harassment complaint against Singh, alleging that he had made sexist remarks in relation to her holding the academic affairs dean position.

The seat was abolished in May 2012 by Nalsar’s chancellor and executive council, one month after Mustafa had assumed charge of the university. “That post was wrongly created,” he said.

Dhanda has now been appointed as convenor of the committee on academics and examinations.

Dhanda said that it was a far more “expansive role” than dean academic affairs had been. “We have the committee system at Nalsar, in which there are several committees [for looking into different things]. The VC is the head of all committees. In this particular committee there are eight of us. I am the convenor,” she explained.

She told Legally India that in the “10 odd months” since its creation, the committee had done a fair amount of “experimentation” related in particular to restructuring of the curriculum.

As a consequence, Nalsar retained only two Bar Council of India (BCI)-mandated courses for the fourth and fifth year students – intellectual property law and law and poverty, which are “Nalsar’s strengths” as Dhanda put it. All other subjects for the last two years of the undergraduate degree were electives. “There has been lots of liberalisation,” she said.

While only core faculty would teach the mandatory courses, Nalsar would bring in a combination of domestic and foreign-trained visiting faculty for the electives, said Dhanda.

The committee was also experimenting to improve the projects and internship system at Nalsar.

“Prof Dhanda is running this university,” commented Mustafa. “While I am the de jure head of this law school, she is the de facto head.”

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