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Delhi HC sets aside JNU appointment of CSPILAS chairperson citing statutes

Professor Rajiv Saxena had filed a petition against Professor Mazhar Asif's appointment as chairperson of CSPILAS on February 1, citing it was against the statutes as he was not a teacher at the centre.

The Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi. (File)

The Delhi High Court has set aside the appointment of the current chairperson of the Centre for Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and Latin American Studies (CSPILAS) at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), after a professor from the centre challenged it citing university statutes.

Professor Rajiv Saxena had filed a petition against Professor Mazhar Asif’s appointment as chairperson of CSPILAS on February 1, citing it was against the statutes as he was not a teacher at the centre. Asif teaches at the Centre for Persian and Central Asian Studies.

Saxena, in his petition, said a letter of the university, dated June 30, had said two professors from the centre – including himself – could not be made chairpersons, as he had already completed two consecutive terms as the chairperson and the other was “replaced as the chairperson during her term due to a certain misconduct”.

Statute 18(2)(c)(I) of JNU statutes say: “Each Centre/Department shall have a Chairperson who shall be appointed by the Executive Council from amongst the Professors/Senior Fellows for two years. Provided that where in any Centre/Department, there is only one Professor/Senior Fellow, the Executive Council may also appoint one of the Associate Professors/Fellows as the Chairman of the Centre/Department.”

In his order dated September 17, Justice V Kameswar Rao said, “There cannot be any dispute that the Jawaharlal Nehru University has been established under the Act of 1966 and is governed by the Statutes and Ordinances which are statutory in nature. It is the Statute 18 of the Statutes which governs the appointment of the Chairperson of all the Centres under the School including CSPILAS.”

Citing the statute he said, “It is clear from the above, that the Chairperson of the Centre / Department has to be appointed from amongst the Professors / Senior Fellows for a period of two years. There is no stipulation that the appointment cannot be renewed beyond two years. Though there is no specific stipulation that the Professors / Senior Fellows have to be from the same Centre / Department, but the proviso clause more specifically the words “where in any Centre / Department, there is only one Professor / Senior Fellow, the Executive Council may also appoint one of the Associate Professors / Fellows as the Chairman of the Centre / Department.” makes it clear that the Professor(s) has to be from the same Centre.”

Rao disposed of the petition by “setting aside” Asif’s appointment as Chairperson of CSPILAS. “Liberty is with the University to proceed in accordance with law,” he said.

This is not the first such case. In 2019, the Delhi HC had set aside the appointment of a Chairperson from outside the Centre for Linguistics and directed the Executive Council to appoint a Chairperson “in accordance with practice and the law”.

Last year in August, the Delhi HC had also asked the Chairperson of the Centre for Informal Sector and Labour Studies not to take any “substantive decision” till a permanent appointment was made, after his appointment as Chairperson was challenged on the same grounds.

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