Yesterday, students at National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore took out a mid-night protest march against the “undue delay” in the appointment of their vice chancellor (VC). The protest, students say, is essentially against the repeated violation of due processes, which has been happening for the past couple of months.
To that end, the entire student body has boycotted its exams, which were set to start from today, September 23. Students are sitting outside the examination hall and have not been going for classes for the past four days in protest.
According to a press statement released by the student body, senior batches have taken up the responsibility to take sessions for junior batches in order to compensate for the classes missed. Moreover, a database has been set up which contains all available notes, summaries and previous years’ question papers with answer keys.
Conflict of interest
Students allege that the college’s registrar O.V. Mandinath has been “creating obstructions” in the whole process of appointing the VC.
On September 20, a four member sub-committee – comprising of two students and two faculty representatives – stated that Mandinath had been behind the delay. According to them, he had also applied for the VC’s post among 16 other applicants in the first week of July, 2019.
However, students say, he is also the secretary of the executive council which convened the high level committee for the VC’s appointment.
“This means he was responsible for all kinds of administrative and logistical task of that committee. And since he himself applied for the position, there was an apparent conflict of interest,” said a student of the college.
The appointment process started on July 23, when a high-level committee found Sudhir Krishnaswamy to be most suitable for the VC’s position. The student body welcomed the decision “wholeheartedly” but suspected the meddling of the registrar in the entire process. Hence, on September 8, they held a general body meeting demanding that he recuse himself from the executive council.
Subsequently, the sub-committee’s report released on September 20 stated that the registrar “sent his intent to recuse [himself] from the VC Full Additional Charge (FAC) Prof. M.K. Ramesh.” The VC, however, didn’t accept his resignation or recusal from the appointment saying that “they don’t have the power” to do so.
Students, on the other hand, say that this is against the law which states that the higher authority need not accept nor refuse the resignation when it comes to issues pertaining to conflict of interest.
“It is a voluntary recusal on these grounds and – by law – it is deemed accepted. The sub-committee report also says that the recusal on the grounds of conflict of interest doesn’t have to be accepted by the higher authorities. However, none of these processes have been followed and there has been a delay in accepting the resignation in the first place,” said the student.
Executive Council’s composition
The student body has also raised concern over the “arbitrary” change in the composition of the executive council. They allege that this might further hamper the process of appointing a VC.
“This [change in composition] is problematic for us because the previous executive council appointed the high-level committee for the VC’s appointment. However, the members of that committee, who are in favour of the selected appointee, have now been removed without any justification. They have also not been invited to the next EC meeting,” said the student.
She further added that the new executive council is trying to interpret the law in such a way so that they have all the powers to vote on the decision of the previous executive council. This, however, again subverts the law and goes against established procedure.
According to students, the administration refused to accept the report released by the sub-committee and said that they “are trying to look into the issues.”
LiveWire has also written an email to the college’s registrar seeking his response on the whole matter. This copy shall be updated with his statement as and when he replies.
In the meantime, the entire student body continues with its protest demanding that the executive council give due acknowledgment to the findings of the sub-committee’s report. It shall go on till the the final meeting of the executive council, which is scheduled to take place before September 29 – convocation day.
Currently, a senior professor of the university is the acting vice chancellor.
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