Bolstered by the Attorney General’s opinion in its favour, the HRD Ministry is learnt to have sent its proposal to sack Visva-Bharati vice chancellor (V-C) Sushanta Dattagupta, again to the President on Tuesday.
According to sources in Rashtrapati Bhavan, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s legal opinion states that the HRD Ministry followed “due process” in its probe against Dattagupta and that the V-C was given a fair chance to present his defence against the allegations.
The HRD Ministry forwarded its original proposal to remove Dattagupta along with the Rohatgi’s legal opinion to President Pranab Mukherjee on Tuesday.
As first reported by The Indian Express on September 22, 2015, the Smriti Irani-led ministry had recommended Dattagupta’s sacking on grounds of gross misconduct and dereliction of duty in its final report to Mukherjee.
This had set the stage for what, perhaps, would have been the first-ever sacking of a central university Vice-Chancellor. Rashtrapati Bhavan, however, returned the file just ahead of the Winter Session of Parliament, asking the government to clarify if the proposed removal was legally tenable and, also, whether the V-C should be sacked without a chance to present his case in person.
Rohatgi, in his opinion, has also clarified that the President can grant Dattagupta a personal hearing, although the latter has already had a chance to present his defence in writing to the government.
Dattagupta was appointed by the UPA government in 2011 and still has nearly eight months left in his term.
He had challenged the legality of the fact-finding committee instituted against him by the government. After his plea was shot down by the Calcutta High Court, he had e-mailed his resignation to Rashtrapati Bhavan on September 30, 2015.
The V-C’s fate has been uncertain ever since, reportedly because of a silent tussle between the HRD Ministry and Rashtrapati Bhavan on the issue.
According to sources, Rashtrapati Bhavan wants Irani’s ministry to accept the resignation and has informally conveyed its unwillingness to sack him, the government isn’t keen on doing so as this would absolve Dattagupta of all the allegations. With the Ministry forwarding the file again to the President, the ball is now in Mukherjee’s court.