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Tuesday, October 20, 2020

JNU’s legal costs up since 2016 as cases against it rise

Teachers and students have been at loggerheads with the administration since 2016 over a host of issues — including disciplinary action, recruitment of faculty, and appointments of deans and chairpersons, among other things.

Written by Aranya Shankar | New Delhi | Updated: September 18, 2020 8:53:21 am
JNU, JNU reopen, jawaharlal nehru university, jnusu, jnu student union, education newsThe varsity has been closed due to the pandemic (File Photo)

Jawaharlal Nehru University has seen a drastic increase in its legal expenses since 2016, with the number of cases filed against the varsity in the Delhi High Court having spiked compared to previous years. According to the Delhi High Court website, from 2016-20, 183 cases were filed against the JNU administration, averaging 37 cases per year. This is four times the average from 2011-15, when the total cases were 47, averaging 9 cases per year.

Teachers and students have been at loggerheads with the administration since 2016 over a host of issues — including disciplinary action, recruitment of faculty, and appointments of deans and chairpersons, among other things.

In the Executive Council (EC) meeting on September 7, the university approved additional funds of Rs 30 lakh, after it was reported that most of the originally allocated amount of Rs 9.40 lakh set aside for legal expenses had been spent and bills of Rs 18 lakh for this financial year were yet to be cleared.

The agenda item for the EC read, “Legal Cell of the University has been allocated Rs 9.40 lakh… to meet charges of University Legal Counsels. Out of the above amount, Rs 9.39 lakh has already been spent towards payment of legal counsels.”

“Large number of bills raised by the empanelled University Legal Counsels during the current financial year amounting (around) Rs 18 lakh are pending with Legal Cell. Additional funds of Rs 30 lakh may be allocated to clear pending bills and cater to future requirements during this financial year,” it further read.

The minutes of the meeting confirmed the EC had approved Rs 30 lakh funds.

According to the HC website, the number of cases (disposed off and pending) filed against JNU from 2016 to 2020 were 28, 24, 52, 59 and 20 respectively. From 2011to 15, the number of cases filed against JNU were 7, 3, 12, 14 and 11 respectively.

The increase in legal expenses post 2016 is visible in JNU’s financial report. In 2016-17, the university spent Rs 4.55 lakh on legal expenses and in 2017-18 it spent a little more than half of that — Rs 2.72 lakh.

However, in 2018-19, legal expenses ballooned to Rs 17.72 lakh — almost 4 times of 2016-17 and 6.5 times of 2017-18. Data for 2019-20 was not available.

Sources said expenses were also rising as JNU had employed ASGs (Additional Solicitor General) in at least 50% cases and had to pay them accordingly.

JNU Teachers’ Association secretary Surajit Mazumdar said, “The explosion in litigation is because of high level of irregularities by the administration, and because mechanisms of grievance redressal have broken down as the administration doesn’t want to engage with… university community… The university has a budget. Where is this additional amount that’s being allocated going to come from…?”

Registrar Pramod Kumar said, “We have a miscellaneous fund, we are using money from there. We don’t need anybody’s permission. The increase in cases is happening because people are going to court over small issues. We are not going (to court), so what can we say?”

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