With AMU vice chancellor Zameeruddin Shah’s term ending in May this year, the university has started the selection process for its new vice chancellor and the university’s executive council will meet on 28 January(today), second time for the same purpose.
The proceedings of the previous meeting went in vain as two candidates were reportedly disqualified for participating in the meeting and voting for themselves, thus violating against a UGC directive.
What’s surprising is that the university is going by the old process through which Shah was appointed and for which, his appointment has been challenged in the Supreme Court because the process is not in line with the UGC Regulations, 2010.
Shah’s appointment is also disputed because of his ineligibility for the post as he does not have the required 10 years’ experience as professor specified in the UGC Regulations, 2010.
The UGC Regulations, 2010 says that a three-member search committee, whose members are not connected in any manner with the university, should send the names for the VC to the Visitor. The Supreme Court made the compliance with the UGC Regulations mandatory in a judgment given in March 2015.
On the other hand, the AMU’s process, which is laid out in the AMU Act, 1981, says that the university’s executive council shall shortlists 5 names for the VC, send it to the AMU Court which shall select three and send them to the Visitor (President of India) who then appoints one for the post. Prior to 1981, AMU too selected its vice chancellor through a search committee.
Now if the university appoints its VC through the old process, the appointment will remain flimsy because of perceived violation of UGC Regulations. The person appointed will gladly do government’s bidding in order to save his own appointment.
The compliant vice chancellor, far from being an independent and assertive leader who can vigorously fight for the university’s minority character, will only spend his time trying to save his own appointment.
Notably, the VC expelled a Kashmiri student over his ‘anti-national’ Facebook post in September 2016 and even refused to consider the apology of the student who said he ‘got carried away by emotions’.
Certainly, that is the kind of behavior that the ruling BJP government expects from vice chancellors across all universities. In addition, any unrest or protest against the government will be easily crushed without the government even having to instruct.
The applicability of Section 7.3.0 of UGC Regulations which deals with the appointment of vice chancellors to AMU is sub-judice. The court had clubbed Shah’s case with the AMU minority character case because Salman Khurshid, appearing on behalf of Zameeruddin Shah had argued that adopting the said section of UGC Regulations would take away the university’s autonomy in choosing its vice chancellor and little would remain of the minority character.
However, in a recent hearing, the court had asked how the adoption of said section of UGC Regulations would infringe on the minority status and constitutional rights of the university.
What also needs to be understood is that, under UGC regulations, the three-member search committee for selection of VC will also have a member of the university’s executive council. So the university also has a substantial say in the selection of the vice chancellor.
On a closer look, the AMU’s process of selection of VC might appear to be autonomous but gives only a little more autonomy to the university than the UGC one. The AMU’s executive council has nominees of the president, and also members from the AMU court who are usually community leaders or eminent Muslims. In the court, there are 10 MPs too apart from a good number of community leaders.
Considering the presence of said nominees and MPs and opportunist community leaders, who will happily parrot the government’s choice in the meetings for continued patronage, it’s extremely unlikely that the government’s choice will not make it to the top three. And ultimately, it is on the advice of the HRD ministry that the President of India ticks the final name.
So if the government can have its candidate as VC without taking away university’s supposed autonomy, why would it want to disrupt the status quo and appear anti-minority especially before the upcoming assembly elections in UP?
In addition, the AMU’s process is also deeply flawed because it’s an inherently political process. The potential candidates are required to lobby rigorously and make promises of future favours to the members of university’s executive council and court.
To the university teachers in the body, the candidates promise plum administrative posts in the university and to the community leaders, they promises invites to functions, opulent welcomes, and admission of their kin in university through nomination quota. The entire process robs the sanctity of the institution of university’s vice chancellor.
Also it’s a populist process and people of grit and integrity fail to make it because they find it against their principles to lobby for themselves or woo the voters.
The old process thus seems to be in the interest of anybody but the university. If the university adopts the UGC Regulations 2010, a search committee the members of which are not connected to the university in any manner will choose in an unbiased way an erudite and strong-willed vice chancellor who will refuse to be a stooge of the government at the centre.
He will not have to oblige anybody and will have the stability to work for the university’s growth and push for academic excellence.
(Views expressed here are the author’s own and Janta Ka Reporter doesn’t endorse necessarily endorse them)