Seven months after Maharashtra Governor Ch Vidyasagar Rao appointed Dr K P Vishwanatha, a former Director of Research at the Bangalore-based University of Agricultural Sciences, as the Vice-Chancellor of the Mahatma Phule Krishi Vidyapeeth (MPKV) in Ahmednagar, the validity of the appointment has been questioned, and a controversy been triggered.
Two writ petitions have been filed in the Bombay High Court seeking the quashing of Vishwanatha’s appointment contending that he lacks minimum administrative qualifications stipulated for the prestigious post. One of them has been filed by Dr SG Borkar, who was also one of contenders for the post.
Records reviewed by The Indian Express show that the Maharashtra Governor appointed Vishwanatha to the post on December 28, 2015 from a panel of five academicians shortlisted by a specially constituted search-cum-selection committee for the post.
Both petitions filed in the court have contended that the search committee had violated the minimum essential qualification parameters laid down under the law in recommending Vishwanatha’s name for the post.
“The Maharashtra Agricultural Universities Act, 1983, clearly states that a person entitled for the post must have at least five years of administrative experience not below the rank of the Head of the Department or equivalent. But official papers considered by the panel for the selection reveal that the person appointed to the post had just 3.8 years of such administrative experience at the time. Despite this, the committee unduly favoured Vishwanatha and recommended his name to the Governor in violation of norms,” said Balasaheb Jadhav, the other petitioner in the case.
The search panel was headed by noted scientist and former Director General of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) Dr Raghunath Mashelkar, and comprised former Director General of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research Dr S Ayyappan, and then Maharashtra’s Additional Chief Secretary (Agriculture) Dinesh Kumar Jain.
Incidentally, there is evidence to show that a similar search-cum-selection panel constituted for the appointment of the VC for another Agricultural University in Maharashtra – the Dr Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth (Dapoli) – had on October 3, 2015 disregarded Vishwanatha’s candidature on the grounds that “he was not found to have the essential qualification for the VC’s post.”
Ironically, both Ayyappan and Jain were members on this committee too, which was headed by Justice (Retd.) JN Patel. “Appointments for VCs to all Agricultural Universities are governed by the same qualification norms,” Jadhav pointed out, adding that the University Grants Commission (UGC), too, had stipulated guidelines in this regard.
Vishwanatha, when contacted, refuted the accusations as motivated and baseless. “I hold a collective administrative experience that spans over 17.8 years. I have headed various research and administrative wings during these years. The accusations have been levelled on the basis of incomplete information,” he said. He added, “The matter is now before the Court. I’ll prove my case before the Court.” When this journalist had contacted present Additional Chief Secretary (Agriculture) Dr Bhagwan Sahai for a response, he confirmed that accusations had been raised. “But these are allegations,” he said.
This correspondent has called on Sahai on July 25 when the monsoon session of the state legislature was ongoing. Further attempts to get in touch with him over the matter were futile.