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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Chemistry professor takes DU to court, says he was bypassed for head of department position

Asked why the prof was not made HoD, Registrar cites a sexual harassment inquiry against him and six other teachers

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi |
Updated: July 3, 2021 6:49:49 pm
Delhi UniversityProfessor R K Sharma has challenged the appointment of Professor Ashok Kumar Prasad, who was made HoD on June 10, saying he had been bypassed as the senior-most professor | Image source: du.ac.in

After allegations of violation of the “seniority principle” in the appointment of the Head of Department (HoD) of Delhi University’s Political Science department, the university has now been dragged to the Delhi High Court by a professor from the Chemistry department over similar allegations.

Professor R K Sharma has challenged the appointment of Professor Ashok Kumar Prasad, who was made HoD on June 10, saying he had been bypassed as the senior-most professor.

The Indian Express had earlier reported that three professors of the Political Science department had written to the Acting Vice-Chancellor saying the appointment of their HoD on June 4 was “arbitrary and unjustified”, and had asked that the decision either be overturned or the matter referred to the Chancellor.

In the case if the chemistry department, Registrar Vikas Gupta in a notification dated June 10 wrote, “As per the provisions of Statute 9 (2)(d) read with Ordinance XXIII and subject to the provisions of Statute 38, the Vice-Chancellor has appointed Prof. Ashok Kumar Prasad, Department of Chemistry, as the Head, Department of Chemistry, for a term of three years w.e.f. June 10.”

The notification also said that as HoD of Chemistry, he will also be the Dean of Faculty of Science up to August 23, 2023, and as the Dean of the School, he will be a member of the Executive Council, the highest decision-making body of the university.

The same day, Sharma wrote to the Vice-Chancellor asking him to “review” the decision as it was an “unprecedented” step in the department. He told The Indian Express he was made Professor in October 2005, whereas Prasad was appointed Professor in June 2009.

He said the appointment was in violation of the UGC gazette notification of 2018. Clause 1 of Ordinance XXIII of the notification states that “the Head of the Department shall be appointed by the Vice-Chancellor by observing, as far as possible, the principle of rotation.” It also states that seniority will be the basis of rotation.

Asked why Sharma was not made HoD, Registrar Vikas Gupta cited a sexual harassment inquiry against Sharma and six other teachers.

The case pertains to 2017 when a candidate for Assistant Professor (ad-hoc) filed a case in the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) alleging harassment. In May 2018, the ICC found them guilty of sexual harassment. However, in September 2019, an EC-appointed Committee headed by Justice (Retd) S N Dhingra found that the procedure adopted by the ICC was not correct and said the report could not be accepted. Thereafter, another committee was set up by the EC headed by Justice (Retd) S L Bhayana, which exonerated all the teachers.

However, in February this year, DU set up a third committee to look into the matter. “Prof Sharma is the senior-most, there is no doubt. But as there is a pending inquiry against him and he has not got vigilance clearance, we can’t make him the HoD,” said Gupta.

When contacted, HoD Ashok Kumar Prasad refused to comment.

Sharma has now gone to Delhi High Court to quash both decisions – of appointing the HoD as well as the EC decision to set up another committee to probe sexual harassment allegations.

On June 18, the Delhi HC issued a notice to the university and listed the matter for July 16 before the roster bench. “The respondents shall keep the record ready for inspection of the Court, if so required,” Vacation Judge Navin Chawla said in the order.

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