Twice in as many months, the President’s office has questioned the legality of the Union HRD ministry’s recommendation on sacking the Visva-Bharati Vice-Chancellor (V-C), Sushanta Dattagupta.
According to Indian Express, the Smriti Irani-led HRD ministry had recommended Dattagupta’s removal on grounds of gross misconduct and dereliction of duty in its final report to President Pranab Mukherjee.
Dattagupta, who was appointed by the UPA and has one more year in his term left, is accused of making illegal appointments, drawing pension from Jawaharlal Nehru University along with his salary from Visva-Bharati without getting it deducted from his pay, and getting his liquor bills reimbursed by the varsity.
Dattagupta, though challenged the legality of the fact-finding committee formed by the government, his plea was shot down by the Calcutta High Court thereby prompting him to e-mail his resignation to Rashtrapati Bhavan on 30 September.
Rashtrapati Bhavan, which has reportedly informally conveyed its decision to sack Dattagupta, it wants Irani’s ministry to accept the resignation. But the central government isn’t keen on following this advice as doing so as would absolve Dattagupta of all the allegations.
Had President Mukherjee accepted Irani’s recommendations, this would have paved the way for what would have been the first-ever sacking of a central university V-C.
According to reports, the Rashtrapati Bhavan returned the file last Friday asking the government to clarify if the proposed removal was legally tenable. It also asked the HRD ministry why V-C should be sacked without a chance to present his case in person. The President’s office is now believed to be waiting for the ministry’s response.
The Rashtrapati Bhavan had first returned the Visva-Bharati file in September asking the ministry to seek legal opinion. The proposal was then vetted and approved by the law ministry and Attorney General of India. Both President’s Press Secretary Venu Rajamony and the HRD Minister Smriti Irani have yet to comment on this revelation.
Dattagupta’s fate has been uncertain ever since the ministry set up a probe against him after Congress MP from Bengal P. Bhattacharya raised the issue of alleged irregularities in the Rajya Sabha’s Winter Session last year.
The inquiry was conducted by Justice Sakharam Singh Yadav, former judge of Allahabad high court, B. Data, chairman of Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture in Shillong, and Dilip K Chakrabarti, professor of South Asian Archaeology, University of Cambridge, and a member of Indian Council of Historical Research. The committee submitted its report to the ministry on March 27.
Meanwhile, the VC in question has joined his office now.