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Thursday, November 26, 2020

Goa law college stands by professor, tells ABVP teacher will not be sacked

Outsider has no locus standi to raise such objections, rules committee after probing complaint that teacher 'promotes socially hateful thoughts about a particular religion'

Written by Smita Nair | Panaji | November 3, 2020 5:45:42 am
Wednesday marks the 102nd anniversary of the armistice ending World War I and is commemorated in several European countries.

Following an inquiry into a complaint by the ABVP against a political science teacher of a law college in Panaji, the college has sent a written response to the students’ outfit, stating that it does not have a “locus standi” to raise such objections, and that no termination order will be issued against the teacher concerned.

Prof Shabir Ali, principal of VM Salgaocar College of Law in Panaji, said the response was mailed through a registered post on Saturday.

“This is a law college. We have the responsibility to ensure that we follow rules. Legally, too, it is not possible to accept their representation,” he said.

Last month, the ABVP had complained against Prof Shilpa Singh, stating that she “promotes socially hateful thoughts about a particular religion, community and group of people”. The students’ organisation had asked the college to take action and terminate the services of Singh, and given a deadline of 24 hours.

Ali said an internal grievance committee took note of the complaint and sought Singh’s response. Singh replied that she feels “threatened and alarmed at this insistence of intimidation against my person through this representation, which seems barely any different from a veiled threat since it demands my termination from my job and thus an assault on my right to livelihood on the basis of an illegally obtained recording.”

The three-member committee then involved the college management, before arriving at the final decision.

“For any enquiry there is a probe into the evidence. Here evidence is missing. They say they have problems with her teaching and have not shared any evidence with us. Where is the clip? Further, the committee has pointed (out) that everything is spoken in context, so is teaching,” said Ali. “The committee has decided no action can be taken based on an allegation not backed by evidence.”

He said Singh is an “excellent teacher and her students have always been happy” with her teaching. “Our committee has come to the conclusion that no one outside this college has any locus standi to raise such objections,” the principal said.

The letter by ABVP was signed by its Konkan unit joint secretary Prabha Naik, who Ali said is “not a student of the college”.

Ali said: “The committee in its letter has also made it very clear on the grievance mechanism not having been respected. Whoever had complaints should have approached the Head of Department, or senior faculty, or the principal or the grievance committee directly. This is a third party and the committee has noted its not acceptable. The aggrieved party — whoever it is – has not followed any of the laid legal mechanism for grievance redress.

“A student from this college or a parent of a student from this college can complain, but no outsider.”

He said the final point in the inquiry report was that “it is unethical to record a classroom teaching without consent. Our college has strict guidelines already in place. We have also informed the committee’s decision that not just the evidence clip, we will also need the student – whoever recorded the clip – to affirm (that) it’s recorded from the classroom at our college.”

According to the grievance committee’s report, action on any content taken out of context without the committee having had the full access to the full clip was not possible.

In its complaint, the ABVP had cited Prof Singh’s teachings on Manusmriti, and her bringing in Rohith Vemula (Hyderabad university student who allegedly died by suicide), M M Kalburgi and (Narendra) Dabholkar (rationalists and activists who were murdered) into classroom lectures, among others.

Following the “veiled threat by the outfit”, political science teachers across Goa had come together to back Singh and “academic and classroom sanctity”.

Meanwhile, Singh has asked for police protection after a complaint has been made against her by a Ponda resident, alleging that she is spreading communal hatred. The college has stated that what she wrote on Facebook is her “personal space, and a college can never intrude into her personal life”.

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