In the first-ever sacking of a central university head, President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday approved the sacking of Visva-Bharati vice chancellor Sushanta Dattagupta.
Mukherjee invoked Section 16 of the General Clauses Act, 1987, to order Dattagupta’s dismissal as the current central university laws do not have any provision for removing the institution’s head. Section 16 empowers the appointing authority — under any central Act or regulation — to “suspend or dismiss any person appointed”.
The government will soon issue formal orders sacking the V-C. Dattagupta, who was appointed to the post in September 2011 by the UPA government, still has seven months left in his term. He was not reachable for comment on Monday despite repeated attempts.
As first reported by The Indian Express on September 22, 2015, the HRD Ministry had recommended Dattagupta’s removal after a fact-finding committee held him guilty on four counts, including allegedly 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.
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 during the Winter session of Parliament in 2014.
The inquiry was conducted by Justice Sakharam Singh Yadav, a former judge of Allahabad High Court; B B Data, chairman of Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture in Shillong; and Dilip K Chakrabarti, a professor of South Asian Archaeology at the University of Cambridge and a member of the Indian Council of Historical Research. The committee submitted its report to the ministry on March 27, 2015.
The HRD Ministry’s recommendation was accepted after a long-drawn tussle between Minister Smriti Irani and the Rashtrapati Bhawan, which had informally conveyed its unwillingness to sack the university head in November, 2015.
Sources said the President’s office wanted the government to withdraw its file recommending the sacking of Dattagupta and accept his resignation which he had e-mailed on September 30, 2015.
Sources said Irani did not relent as the proposal to remove the Visva-Bharati head had been vetted by the Law Ministry and Attorney General of India, and accepting his resignation would be a tacit acknowledgement on the government’s part that the V-C had done nothing wrong.
The HRD Ministry sent back its proposal to the President with a second legal opinion from the Attorney General last week stating that all “due processes were followed” by the government in its probe against Dattagupta.