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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

JNU prof suspended, teachers’ association alleges witch-hunt

The professor had been found guilty of allegedly declaring his parents as ‘dependents’ despite his father’s pension as a government servant

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi | Updated: July 27, 2016 3:12:46 pm

The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has suspended an associate professor and the vice-president of the JNU Teachers’ Association (JNUTA) with immediate effect, over alleged financial irregularities and fraud. Terming the move as “witch-hunting” by the administration, however, the JNUTA has decided to hold a march in campus on July 28 demanding revocation of the suspension.

Associate Professor Ashish Agnihotri of the Centre for French & Francophone Studies of the School of Language, Literature & Cultural Studies, was served the suspension order on Monday.

While the notice does not mention the details of alleged fraud, sources told the Indian Express that Agnihotri had been found guilty of allegedly declaring his parents as ‘dependents’ despite his father’s pension as a government servant, and seeking reimbursement of their health expenses and claiming LTC allowances. The matter had first been reported to the administration in 2013.

“Dr Ashish Agnihotri has been placed under suspension with immediate effect. This has the approval of the competent authority,” reads the suspension order issued by the Academic Branch. The order, however, does not define the period of suspension. Both Agnihotri and JNU Registrar Pramod Kumar could not be reached for a comment.

Terming Agnihotri’s suspension as “witch-hunting”, the JNUTA questioned why he had to be suspended despite having accepted his “unintentional lapse”, and said it was being done to “silence teachers”.

“Everybody is not aware of some or the other rule, but the suspension of a person when he has accepted the error and agreed to return the amount with interest, is definitely witch-hunting and nothing else. After 2013, this lapse first came to his knowledge, he has not claimed anything. The JNUTA in its general body meeting held on Tuesday has decided to hold a march on July 28 demanding revocation of the suspension and we also submit a memorandum to the VC,” said JNUTA secretary Bikramaditya Choudhary.

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“He had accepted his unintentional lapse right at the beginning and has been replying to all the show-cause notices served to him through the years. They could have issued a warning or put a penalty, but suspension was not required. He’s not in a position to influence any witness as he himself is admitting his mistake. Logically, you suspend someone when they’re in a position to influence witnesses or when it’s a violation of such a great magnitude that the university wants to make an example of it, but that is not the case here,” said JNUTA president Ajay Patnaik.

However, JNU Students’ Union joint-secretary Saurabh Sharma said this was just one of the many cases of financial irregularities done by teachers in the campus. “The JNUTA should be dissolved, and the office-bearers should publicly apologise for the issue,” he said.

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