Visva-Bharati Vice-Chancellor Sushanta Dattagupta could become the first central university head to be sacked by the NDA government if the President accepts the HRD Ministry’s report finding him guilty of gross misconduct and dereliction of duty.
The ministry submitted a final report to President Pranab Mukherjee Monday.
Dattagupta, appointed to the post in 2011 by the UPA government, still has a year left in his tenure.
If Mukherjee, who is the Visitor of all central universities, accepts the ministry’s indictment, he can invoke Section 16 of the General Clauses Act, 1987, to order the removal of the V-C. While current central university laws do not have any provision for the dismissal of the institution’s head, Section 16 empowers the appointing authority — under a central act or regulation — to “suspend or dismiss any person appointed”.
The ministry’s final report, sources said, follows the scrutiny of Dattagupta’s reply to a showcause notice served on June 29 this year. The notice sought his response regarding five specific accusations and the government eventually found him guilty on four charges:
* The V-C allegedly continued to draw salary from Visva-Bharati along with pension from Jawaharlal Nehru University without getting his pension deducted from his pay, in gross violation of the university laws.
* The V-C allegedly made 25 irregular/illegal appointments. In most cases, the candidates appointed did not meet the eligibility criteria prescribed by University Grants Commission.
* Dattagupta allegedly approved payment of Rs 5 lakh as honorarium to an inquiry officer, even though the government has fixed a maximum amount of Rs 75,000 for conducting departmental inquiry.
* The V-C allegedly got personal bills for alcoholic beverages reimbursed by the university.
When contacted, Dattagupta said he had no knowledge of the HRD Ministry’s latest move. “This is news to me. As far as I am concerned, I have given my response to the (showcause) notice and the allegations are baseless,” he said.
HRD Ministry spokesperson Ghanshyam Goel refused to comment on the matter. The President’s press secretary Venu Rajamony said he had “no idea” about the latest development.
The Visva-Bharati University, founded by Rabindranath Tagore, has several notable alumni, including Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen and filmmaker Satyajit Ray. It is the one of the four central universities whose V-Cs have come under HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s scanner for alleged misconduct and irregularities.
Earlier this year, the President had also issued a showcause notice to Delhi University V-C Dinesh Singh. Though the government has scrutinised Singh’s reply, it is yet to take a final decision in his case. There is also an ongoing inquiry against the heads of Puducherry University and IGNOU.
The HRD Ministry had set up a probe against Dattagupta after Congress MP from Bengal P Bhattacharya raised the issue of alleged irregularities in Rajya Sabha during the winter session last year. The inquiry was conducted by former judge of Allahabad high court Justice Sakharam Singh Yadav, chairman of Sri Aurobindo Institute of Indian Culture in Shillong B B Data, 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 this year.
Dattagupta challenged the legality of the fact-finding committee in June, but was shot down by the Calcutta High Court. He, however, managed to get two extensions — of 21 days each — on the deadline for replying to the ministry’s showcause notice.The HRD Ministry eventually found him guilty on four charges.
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