At the centre of a storm over the protests by women students on his campus, the Vice-Chancellor of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) is caught in another controversy. Barely a day before the government’s freeze on recruitment kicks in given that he is retiring in two months, V-C Girish Chandra Tripathi pushed several faculty appointments, including one of a teacher indicted for sexual harassment, in the meeting of the Executive Council (EC) held here today.
According to HRD Ministry’s order, all Central university heads are prohibited from making appointments in the last two months of their term. Tripathi retires as BHU V-C on November 27. As per the government directive, he is disallowed from making appointments starting Wednesday, that is September 27.
The proposal to regularise O P Upadhyay’s appointment as Medical Superintendent of Sir Sunderlal Hospital, on the BHU campus, met with resistance in the EC meeting after a member objected to the move citing Upadhyay’s conviction for sexual harassment in a magistrate court in Fiji.
“A member pointed that instead of initiating an inquiry against the person concerned, the university is urging the EC to regularise his appointment,” said an EC member on the condition of anonymity. It’s not clear if Upadhyay’s appointment was pushed through. “It will only be clear once the minutes of the meeting are circulated,” the member added.
Sources said that while there is a question mark over Upadhyay’s appointment, most of the other appointments went through.
The EC is the highest decision-making body of the university and all candidates finalised by the selection committee of different departments have to be mandatorily cleared by it. The V-C heads both, the EC and the selection committees of different departments.
Upadhyay has been acting as Medical Superintendent of Sir Sunderlal Hospital since April 2016. In 2013, the magistrates court at Nasinu in Fiji held him guilty of sexually harassing a 21-year-old woman. The proposal to “regularise” his appointment gains significance against the backdrop of the ongoing crisis in BHU which was triggered by an alleged incident of sexual harassment on campus.
Students this week gathered outside the VC’s residence to protest the incident and several women students were injured when the police allegedly used force to remove them
When asked if the university tabled a proposal regarding Upadhyay’s appointment, Tripathi told The Indian Express, “Yes there was such a proposal and I recall there were objections (in the meeting). But since there is a matter regarding this pending in the (Allahabad) High Court, we will have to wait for the court’s verdict.”
Asked specifically if Upadhyay’s appointment was cleared, he said, “Appointments are a routine affair and I do not recall the decision regarding one specific appointment. Please wait for a day.”
When contacted by The Indian Express on Tuesday night, Upadhyay said: “The university had taken legal opinion in my matter and it was decided that the decision of a court abroad does not hold good in our country. Hence, I was interviewed and selected by selection committee. I was on study leave (in Fiji), it was a case of extortion and because I resisted it, I was falsely accused.”
Between August 22 and September 25, the BHU selection committees, chaired by Tripathi, had interviewed approximately 300 candidates for different posts over 17 days. The names of selected candidates were tabled for EC’s approval on Tuesday.