As the four-year term of Panjab University’s Senate, the highest governing body of the varsity, is set to end, several senators wrote a letter to the Vice-President of India and Chancellor of Panjab University, Venkaiah Naidu, urging him to extend the term of the current senate body until the next senate has been elected.
The step comes in view of the expiration of the current senate body on October 31, while the elections for the next senate body stand indefinitely stalled.
Pointing out that as per the university calendar, the senate and syndicate are supreme governing bodies of the varsity, the letter read, “The university cannot function in a vacuum without a governing body in place, in accordance with the statute. It is also pertinent to note that the powers available to the Vice-Chancellor to be used in emergencies can by no stretch of imagination, be construed to be used without any situation of emergency, for months together, overriding the governing bodies which are supreme.”
Talking to The Indian Express, members of the senate, refusing to be individually identified, expressed concerns about ‘advent of an authoritarian regime’ at the varsity. “This is what the V-C has been wanting. A complete elimination of democracy on the campus so he can do as he wishes, without any opposition,” said a senate member. Earlier, members of the senate had approached the UT Administration for holding senate elections, permission for which was denied by the UT.
A delegation of Panjab University Senate members had met the UT Administration again on October 21, submitting a representation– deeming the administration’s decision to postpone the varsity’s senate elections in view of Covid-19 as a “direct and unjustifiable interference by the UT Administration in the working of the highest governing body of Panjab University”
The four-page long representation called the UT’s decision, based on information provided by UT’s SSP and DG health, “erroneous and factually incorrect.”
The members have time and again cited different incidents, during which even a huge outpour of people has not interfered with the occasions, including the Navratra fair at Mansa Devi temple, elections of Panjab University’s teachers’ body, elections of the bar associations and the Bihar Assembly elections.
“When the whole country has been directed to open up and elections to Bihar Assembly are already underway, there is no justification for the UT Administration not permitting elections for the PU Senate. The current situation, under no pretext, can be used to demolish a democratic governing body of a university, with representation of stakeholders from diverse realms,” they had told the UT administration.
Even though a press statement issued by the UT Administration had claimed that the UT Advisor has heard the delegation and will look into the demands, no response has yet been received.
With no re-election or the official extension of the senate body – which were usually concluded by the end of September every four years, the senators said, they were forced to seek the involvement of the Chancellor in the matter. The elections this year had initially been postponed for two months by the Vice-Chancellor on August 15, citing the pandemic regulations, and then postponed again– indefinitely by the Chandigarh Administration through orders issued on October 17.
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