Less than three months after the Rajasthan government passed The Universities’ Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2019, which introduced a provision to remove vice-chancellors, the state government has initiated inquiries into alleged irregularities that took place in at least two universities under the previous, BJP-led government.
In light of the inquiries, the BJP has accused the Congress government in the state of deliberately initiating inquiries to harass academics appointed during the previous regime, and of interfering in the autonomy of universities.
Rajasthan Higher Education Minister Bhanwar Singh Bhati denied that the inquiries are part of any political vendetta, and pointed out that they are being conducted “with the Governor’s permission”.
N P Kaushik, retired V-C of Rajasthan Technical University (RTU), Kota, alleged financial irregularities under whose tenure is being probed, called the allegations of financial irregularities “baseless”.
According to records of the Higher Education Department, the state government had written to the Governor’s office on August 26 and recommended an inquiry into matters of alleged financial irregularities during the previous government’s tenure in RTU, Kota. Following permission, an inquiry was initiated by the divisional commissioner of Kota.
Divisional commissioner Laxmi Naryan Soni, who conducted the inquiry, told The Indian Express that the inquiry is being done regarding investment of funds for provident fund. He added that following the inquiry, the report has been sent to the Governor.
Former V-C Kaushik said: “There is a university regulation in place for provident funds, under which a committee is instituted to look into investments. (These) investments have been made according to recommendations of the committee. All procedures and regulations were followed after due discussions and several meetings. The allegations of financial irregularities are baseless. I have not been called for any inquiry.”
Kaushik’s term as V-C ended in January 2019; he retired in May.
A similar Act amending the Rajasthan Technical Universities laws was also passed in July.
According to government officials, an inquiry was initiated in September, after then Governor Kalyan Singh gave his approval on September 5, against University of Rajasthan’s vice-chancellor R K Kothari on allegations of irregularities in the finance and recruitment process.
“The inquiry against him pertains to financial irregularities and misuse of the post by not following proper norms during recruitment of professors, deputy registrar and lower division clerks,” Jaipur divisional commissioner K C Verma, who is conducting the inquiry, said.
Repeated calls and messages to Kothari remained unanswered.
Kothari was appointed in 2017, under the Vasundhara Raje-led BJP government.
How V-Cs can be removed by new law
The amended law, passed by the Assembly on July 30 this year, states that a V-C can be removed in consultation with the Governor on the basis of the state government’s report, or otherwise, in the opinion of the chancellor (the Governor), if the person in that post “abuses his power” or “wilfully omits or refuses to carry out provisions of the Act”.
Former state Education minister and BJP legislator Vasudev Devnani said: “The Congress government passed the law with the intention of having V-Cs who will be ‘yes men’ to this government. This is an attack on the autonomy of universities. The government is deliberately trying to harass academics appointed during our regime as part of a political vendetta.”
Minister Bhati said: “Earlier there was no direct provision to take action even if a vice-chancellor was involved in financial irregularities or misused his position. Several such complaints were received. That is why the new (amendment) Bill was introduced.” In the statement of objects and reasons for the Universities’ Laws Bill, the government had said that the provision for removing V-Cs was being included since there was no such provision in the existing law “if any unprecedented condition warrants it [removal] before the end of his tenure”.