The HRD Ministry is locked in a silent tussle over the fate of Visva-Bharati Vice Chancellor Sushant Dattagupta with Rashtrapati Bhavan, which has informally conveyed its unwillingness to sack the university head, sources said.
In its final report to President Pranab Mukherjee, the HRD Ministry had recommended Dattagupta’s removal on grounds of gross misconduct and dereliction of duty, as first reported by The Indian Express on September 22.
This report had set the stage for what, perhaps, would have been the first-ever sacking of a central university vice-chancellor.
However, the President’s Office, sources said, now wants the ministry to withdraw the file and accept Dattagupta’s resignation which he had e-mailed on September 30.
Dattagupta, who was appointed to the post in 2011 by the UPA government, still has a little less than a year left in his term.
This development comes just a month after the NDA government, at the behest of the Rashtrapati Bhavan, had retracted its file urging Mukherjee to send former Delhi University head Dinesh Singh on forced leave.
The HRD Ministry, however, is unwilling to relent this time as the proposal to remove the Visva-Bharati head had been vetted by the Law Ministry and Attorney General of India. “Accepting his resignation would be a tacit acknowledgement on the government’s part that he (vice-chancellor) had done nothing wrong. This will also set a bad precedent in case of the Pondicherry University head, who has been found guilty of holding a fake D.Litt degree,” said a source.
In the Pondicherry V-C’s case, a fact-finding committee constituted by the government had found Chandra Krishnamurthy guilty of serious academic frauds, including holding a fake D.Litt degree. Krishnamurthy was served a show-cause notice by the President on August 21.
President’s Press Secretary Venu Rajamony did not respond to queries emailed by The Indian Express on Dattagupta’s case. “We do not comment on such matters,” he said.
HRD Minister Smriti Irani was unavailable for comment, as she is in Paris attending UNESCO’s Leaders’ Forum. Ministry spokesperson Ghanshyam Goel also did not respond to questions e-mailed by this newspaper. The vice-chancellor was also unavailable for comment.
The HRD Ministry had set up a probe against Dattagupta after Congress Rajya Sabha MP from Bengal P Bhattacharya raised the issue of alleged irregularities.
The inquiry found Dattagupta guilty on four counts, including making 25 illegal appointments, drawing pension from JNU along with his salary from Visva-Bharati without getting it deducted from his pay, and getting his liquor bills reimbursed.
Dattagupta challenged the legality of the fact-finding committee in June, but the move was shot down by the Calcutta High Court. He eventually e-mailed his resignation to Rashtrapati Bhavan on September 30. The ministry and the Visitor — the President — has neither accepted nor rejected his resignation.
Dattagupta, meanwhile, rejoined office this month amid confusion and has scheduled meetings of the university’s Finance Committee and Executive Council in December.
Now, the students and teachers have planned a fresh round of agitation against Dattagupta and the government for delaying his removal.