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Unpopular NUJS vice chancellor Ishwara Bhat to leave for CNLU Patna, before report exhumation • NLIU ex-vc, 3 others also applied

Bhat, conveniently relocates to CNLU Patna
Bhat, conveniently relocates to CNLU Patna

NUJS Kolkata vice chancellor (VC) Prof Ishwara Bhat, who was hugely unpopular with its student body will be CNLU Patna’s new VC, having applied for the post shortly after NUJS had its first ever judicial review commission and four years before his term was due to end.

CNLU’s chancellor, Patna high court chief justice Rajendra Menon notified Bhat's selection to the post today, choosing from three recommendations sent to him by a search committee comprising of former NLU Jodhpur VC (retd) Justice NN Mathur, Patna University VC Prof Nitin Karmalkar and senior advocate PK Sahi, Mathur told us today.

National Judicial Academy assistant director DP Verma and Delhi University professor Dr PK Bhatnagar were the other two recommendations for the Patna job.

NLU woes

Mathur commented: “The things are going in reverse. We're getting faculty [at NLUs] but not vice chancellors. Earlier there were vice chancellors but not faculty. The whole problem is that there is not a proper search committee. We need a very broader [committee comprising] people who know the system in depth.”

Bhat will be succeeding CNLU VC Dr A Lakshminath. Lakshminath's term as VC ends on 19 March.

The search committee has had interactions with a total of five contenders for the post, before forwarding the three names to the chancellor. Former NLIU Bhopal director SS Singh, who was compelled to resign in November 2017 facing student protests, and NLSIU Prof V Kumar were the other applicants who did not make it past the interaction round.

Mathur explained: “My background as a judge [made me] the senior-most person [on the search committee]. I come from 1982, when the law education concept developed, when they started talking about NLUs. None of the vice chancellors know why we want [national] law schools. The rhetoric is that they're going for [law education based on] UGC pattern.”

“I asked many of the candidates the one question: these are NLUs or they are law schools? How do you make a distinction? Most of them, 90 per cent, don't know,“ Mathur lamented.

“Justice Hidayatullah as chairman of UGC had said we need Harvard law schools here. Now [the NLUs are] doing what UGC says, what MHRD says. The whole concept was to take it away from MHRD or UGC. That is the misfortune,“ he added.

“There are 20 NLUS why you need more if you don't know the concept of what is Harvard Law School? They are just simple state universities under the garb of NLU and the vice chancellors don't know [this].”

History of Bhat

Bhat did not respond to our calls and messages for comment since yesterday.

He still had almost four years more until his term as VC at NUJS would come to an end, but he had also faced two no-confidence petitions against him by the NUJS student body, as well as a detailed statutory review of the affairs of the law school late last year.

The conclusion of the report has remained a mystery to date, with the report having allegedly been buried by Bhat.

But issues with Bhat's style of administering affairs at NUJS included institutional problems under heads such as transparency, academics, infrastructure, health and hygiene, inaction on financial embezzlement, curbing student liberties out of retribution, proposal to increase student intake and to open two new branches, and then the delay in forming the statutory review commission, according to the second loss of confidence motion against him in which the student body expressed its “utter dissatisfaction and complete loss of faith in [his] leadership”.

One day before Bhat was re-appointed as VC at NUJS in September 2016, to enjoy a second term as head of affairs at the law school, the NUJS student body had signed its first no-confidence petition against him stating that the administration had under-performed under similar heads as in the second petition, and also that Bhat had given evasive responses to students when they had put these questions to him in an official general body meeting.

A scathing review commission report at Nalsar Hyderabad in 2012, which had been suppressed internally but first published by Legally India, had strongly contributed to the resignation of its then vice-chancellor Prof Veer Singh.

Student body polices Bhat admin

CNLU Patna does not have a student body, confirmed sources in the law school.

But at NUJS, Bhat had faced strong opposition from the Student Juridical Association (SJA). The SJA reached out to multiple EC members on the eve of the extension of his term as VC, including the then advocate general Jayant Mitra and former CJI late justice Altmas Kabir.

After the failure of the first no confidence petition in putting the brakes on Bhat's re-appointment, the NUJS SJA had sent out their report highlighting the abysmal state of affairs to union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad and human resource development (HRD) Minister Prakash Javadekar, sources in the association told us.

As a result the SJA had won an unprecedented physical representation before the NUJS executive council and the then chief justice of India (CJI) TS Thakur, which led to the formation of statutory review commission by the CJI.

When the review commission finally visited NUJS, the SJA made multiple representations before the commission.

The commission's report will likely be presented on 7 April, according to sources in NUJS.

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