The Delhi High Court has issued notice to the Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia University, its Vice-Chancellor and other office bearers on a petition seeking initiation of proceedings against them for criminal contempt of courts for allegedly fabricating a Delhi High Court order to reinstate a professor removed on charges of plagiarism.
A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice C Hari Shankar issued notices to the Centre, the varsity, its VC Talat Ahmed, Associate Professor Deepak Kem, Prof Sushant Ghosh (Joint Director, Research) and Registrar AP Siddiqui.
The notices have been issued on a petition moved by Hamidur Rehman, a Jamia alumnus, who claims to be an RTI activist.
In his petition filed through advocate Deepanshu Gupta, the petitioner has accused the private respondents of fabricating the high court order to give effect to their nefarious design of reinstating Professor Kem, who had been removed from the varsity on charges of plagiarism.
The petitioner said the respondents fabricated a court’s order to read that a lenient view be taken in Dr Kem’s case and had prayed that official records of his removal and the agenda placed before the EC on March 10, 2017, be furnished before the court.
While praying for quashing of Dr Kem’s reinstatement, the petition seeks criminal contempt proceedings under Sections 11, 12 and 15 of the Contempt of Courts Act read with Article 215 of the Constitution against the respondents for fabricating court’s order.
The petitioner said Kem was serving as associate professor in Centre for Culture, Media and Governance. He claimed to have authored a book titled ‘Democracy and Media’ in 2007 which allegedly contained extensive material copied from a book published by Cambridge University Press in 2001.
The charge was probed and aired by a news channel. Kem was found guilty of plagiarism by the Executive Council (EC) of the varsity following the news report and the EC recommended his removal in 2010.
Kem challenged his removal in the Delhi High Court.
In September 2011, a single judge bench of Delhi High Court had dismissed Kem’s petition while holding that the punishment of removal cannot be said to be disproportionate to the inexcusable misconduct of plagiarism.
Kem then preferred an appeal against the single judge order but in vain.
The division bench had in April 2012 held that the attempt of the petitioner to pass off other’s labour as his own was inexcusable. This order attained finality as it was not challenged.
Three years after the 2012 judgment, Kem made a representation before the varsity to consider his case against the penalty of removal from services.
The Establishment Committee considered his representation in a meeting held on April 9, 2015, and held that since the Delhi High Court has already decided the matter, it could not take any decision and the view was endorsed by the Executive Council.
Kem then filed a review application before the varsity in November 2015, over four years after his removal from services. The EC rejected it vide a resolution dated November 27, 2015.
This resolution was challenged by Kem by way of a writ petition before the high court in the year 2016 which was also rejected followed by an appeal which was disposed of leaving it open to the varsity to consider his case.
“It was in March 2017 that the matter pertaining to Dr Kem was placed before the Executive Council and the agenda circulated amongst its members contained “scandalous averment” that the high court has directed that a lenient view be taken in the matter,” said the petition.
The members of the EC then authorised the Vice-Chancellor to constitute a committee vide order dated March 30, 2017, with the Pro-Vice chancellor as its chairman.
This committee held that a minor penalty may be imposed on Dr Kem and he be reinstated to his post of associate professor.
“The committee scandalously noted that in view of the gravity of the matter, a minor penalty be imposed in him by withholding two increments as the high court observed during arguments in the appeal that he has earlier been imposed a harsh punishment i.e., a penalty of removal from service.
“The judicial conscience is bound to be shocked in view of the fact that no such direction was ever passed by the Division Bench of the high court,” said the petitioner.
The Vice-Chancellor, said the petitioner, gave his approval on the same day without placing the findings before the EC.
The Registrar also issued the order the same day reinstating Dr Kem directing him to join duty with immediate effect.
The petitioner said Dr Kem and the others fabricated court’s order to say that a lenient view has been ordered to be taken.
They also say that Dr Kem, after his removal from Jamia, was able to secure employment in July 2012 to the post of deputy registrar at Indian Institute of Information Technology, Allahabad, by suppressing the fact of his removal from Jamia on charges of plagiarism.
He was subsequently removed from there after the revelation of facts, said the petition while demanding probe into the entire episode.