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Read highly critical buried NUJS report that SJA won from VC Bhat today • CCTV cameras dead

NUJS SJA gets hands on review commission report
NUJS SJA gets hands on review commission report

The student juridical association (SJA) has obtained a copy from vice-chancellor (VC) Prof Ishwara Bhat of the 56-page long-buried and long-overdue report by the statutory review commission.

Bhat, who has controversially been set to join CNLU Patna as VC, provided the document dated 30 October 2017 to NUJS students today.

The students also procured a copy of Bhat’s 21 December 2017 letter to the NUJS chancellor, responding to the 34 proposals floated in the report.

The report had not been seen until today by NUJS students and faculty members, with Bhat having sat on the only available copy. In 2014, Bhat had also suppressed a critical Bar Council of India (BCI) fact-finding report on NUJS for 9 months.

According to the NUJS SJA president Arjun Aggarwal and vice-president Samarth Sharma, today the controversial “CCTVs in classrooms were shut immediately based on an adverse observation by the Review Commission”.

Below the full email the SJA circulated internally.

Story developing, to be updated.

Dear all

Over the past two days there has been an overwhelming concern in the General Body regarding informational asymmetry. We humbly accede and believe that we should start bridging the same from this moment itself. This is, however, only a small first step towards informing the General Body about the relevant context and merely reflects the tip of the iceberg.

Review Commission

In a General Body meeting held on January 15, 2014, the Student Juridical Association exposed a large scale financial scam in the University. In this meeting, the Vice Chancellor had promised us, among many other things, to make sure that a Review Commission will be constituted at the earliest. The same is reflected in a resolution signed by over 400 students that day.

On February 2, 2014, the then office-bearers wrote to the then CJI Justice (Retd.) P. Sathasivam requesting the formation of the University Review Commission which was already overdue 9 years then. Nothing progressed for the next two and a half years.

In our General Body meeting held on September 21, 2016, the Vice Chancellor had responded to query in this regard by claiming that he has been trying his best for two years and blamed the delay on frequent changes in the CJI office and State Government elections. Both the minutes of that meeting and video recording, if any, establishes the same. When further inquired about the evidence of correspondence with these offices, he promised to search and get back. Quite unsurprisingly, the Vice Chancellor has not complied with the same to this day.

Based on this and other responses in that meeting, we expressed our loss of faith in the leadership of the Vice Chancellor through our resolution dated September 23, 2016. Our demand before the Executive Council meeting held on the next day where they considered the Vice Chancellor’s extension and granted the same was simple: an extension should not be granted without redressal of our long standing demands concerning, among other things:

  • lack of transparency regarding meetings of University bodies such as General Council, Executive Council, Academic Council, Finance Committee, et al.;
  • complete undermining of the students’ right to democratically participate in the administration of this University;
  • non-responsiveness to RTIs for many years;
  • the worst student-faculty ratio in top 5 National Law Schools (1:22) despite highest fee and most students;
  • stalling of academic reforms agreed upon over two years back;
  • falling research and academic standards;
  • zero research output;
  • complete inaction on financial embezzlement despite recommendations by Justice (Retd.) PN Sinha’s report to institute a full CID inquiry to investigate the matter thoroughly and hold accountable officers who continue to serve in the University to this day; and
  • zero involvement of students in activities of various research centres in the University.

Needless to say, all these issues still remain unresolved.

Subsequently, we gave a physical representation to the Executive Council and met with Chancellor, then CJI Justice (Retd.) TS Thakur, during the 2016 Convocation. The Executive Council agreed that our concerns were serious and must be looked into by a Review Commission. As a result, Justice Thakur constituted the Review Commission on December 24, 2016.

Due to some unconvincing procedural irregularities, it was only in September 2017 that the first ever University Review Commission visited NUJS. On October 30, 2017, the report was submitted to the present CJI, Justice Dipak Misra. He sought responses of the Vice Chancellor vide a letter dated November 29, 2017.

When we (along with many members of the SJA Executive Committee) approached the Vice Chancellor for the report this evening, he told us he has not caused any delay in making the report available to the students and that Justice Misra has instructed him to place it before the Executive Council. When we inquired about any legal or moral justification for the delay, the Vice Chancellor claimed that the report was first made available to him only in the first week of February. On being unable to justify the non-publication of report for another hour, the Vice Chancellor finally agreed to provide us with a copy. Subsequently, he claimed that he received the report in the second week of December.

Unsurprisingly, when we finally got his response to Justice Misra, we realized that the Vice Chancellor has been denying this report to us without any justification for months, if not years.

Unlike the Vice Chancellor, however, we firmly believe that this report is the right of every past and present member of the Student Juridical Association. We have attached the full report and the VC’s response to some recommendations.

Way Forward

The power of student collectivization has been reaffirmed by the sequence of events today. So has the power of this report. CCTVs in classrooms were shut immediately based on an adverse observation by the Review Commission. There are many more systematic and institutional flaws that plague our University.

As of today, the student body faces tougher challenges than most of our recent predecessors. We, as the General Body, can choose to ignore this reality, be satisfied with an oversimplistic conception of NUJS brand image, collect peanuts that the VC throws at us while letting things get worse. Illustratively, following the on-going second faculty exodus, the availability of faculty has a hit an all-time low. All this is despite a 2013 BCI fact-finding committee’s recommendation for hiring 19 new faculty members and SJA petitions to Executive Council and Academic Council dating back to 2013. We have petitioned the Academic Council, Executive Council and CJIs multiple times since. The report suggests that we should hire at least 55 new faculty members (paragraph 94). The current strength is under 30. If this University fails to even provide us with a decent education, we fail to see what will be left of the NUJS brand in the near future.

At this moment, we seek inspiration from our General Body to determine the future course of action. After five years of focused attention on the most important issues, we stand here today, unable to fix accountability on anyone for this abysmal state of affairs. We look forward to engaging with you, preferably in a General Body meeting, after all of you have gone through this report.

Immensely proud and hopeful

Arjun Agarwal (President)

Samarth Sharma (Vice-President)

The 30 October 2017 inquiry commission report into NUJS Kolkata (PDF)

Vice Chancellor’s Response to URC Recommendations (PDF)

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