A significant ruling has come from Delhi High Court in the case of Dr. Bishnupriya Dutt & Ors. v. JNU wherein court has ruled that to effect selections and faculty positions at Jawaharlal Nehru University, approval of Academic Council is necessary.
Question before the single judge bench of Justice C. Hari Shankar was to have clarity on whether the panel, which would include the names added by the Vice Chancellor, if any would have to pass through the Academic Council as well as the Executive Council, or only through the Executive Council. Earlier in his order the judge had expressed a prima facie the view that no justifiable exemption could be taken to the power of the Vice Chancellor to add names to the panel of experts, approved by the relevant statutory body of the University.
Court was considering legality of an amendment made to the Regulation M-18, which defined the procedure for creation of a database of experts for the panel, pursuant to 269th Executive Council meeting in September 2017, which was challenged by five JNU professors.
Role of Academic Council in the approval process for the panel of experts was nullified by the amended regulation.
Court said that although it is not inclined at this stage to stay the amendment to the Regulation M-18 as carried out by the impugned resolution 6.11, taken at the 269th Meeting of the Executive Council on 18th September, 2017, to the extent it authorizes the Vice Chancellor to add/suggest names for addition to the panel of experts, for recruitment to faculty positions in the University. However, the panel, including the names added by the VC, if any, would have to be recommended by the Academic Council and, thereafter put up to the Executive Council for approval, and it is only thereafter that the panel could operate for effecting selections to faculty positions.
"I am of the opinion prima facie¸ that though, at this stage, no occasion arises to interdict the power of the Vice Chancellor to add or suggest names of the panel of experts, such names, if added/suggested, would have necessarily to be first recommended by the AC and thereafter, forwarded to the EC for approval."
Senior counsel appearing for JNU professors had contended while drawing the attention of the court to Clause 15 (3) of the statutes governing the University that matters relating to recruitment and faculty positions is within the domain of the AC.
On the other hand counsel for JNU, Monika Arora had submitted that it may not be permissible to accord such an interpretation to Clause 15(3)(a) of the statues, in view of the clear delineation of the powers and functions of the EC and the AC, as conceptualized in Sections 12 and 13 of the JNU Act. She had submitted that in her understanding the selection of teachers relates to the administration of the University and would, therefore, fall within the exclusive province of the EC, whereas the jurisdiction of the AC would relate to matters relating to "education and examination".
On her submissions judge remarked that he finds it surprising that the JNU is seeking to argue contrary to its own statutes. That it may be questionable whether it is at all open to the JNU to contend that matters relating to recruitment and faculty positions are outside the jurisdiction of the AC, when, by its own statutes, specifically Clause 15(3)(a) thereof, the JNU had itself conferred the said power on the AC.
He further said that submissions of JNU's counsel do not warrant acceptance. That the narrow interpretation which counsel seeks to place on the word "administration" would fly in the face of Section 13(2) of the JNU Act, which not only confers power, on the AC, in matters relating to "maintenance of standards of instruction, education and examination", but also empowers it to "exercise such other powers and perform such other duties as may be conferred or imposed upon it by the Statutes". Clearly, therefore, court said, where the Statutes of the JNU themselves confer, on the AC, powers relating to recruitment and faculty positions; it is not open to the JNU to contend otherwise.
Senior advocate Akhil Sibal along with advocates Abhik Chimni and Shriya represented petitioners in the case.
Read the Order Here