A member of the search committee tasked to look for candidates to be appointed as Vice-Chancellor of Jamia Millia Islamia University in Delhi has written to President Ram Nath Kovind to recall the appointment of Dr Najma Akhtar, who currently heads the university.
In his letter to the President on written on March 8, Ramakrishna Ramaswamy, a member of the search committee formed in 2018, claimed that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had denied vigilance clearance to Akhtar in an office memo (OM) dated January 10, 2019.
Ramaswamy quoted newspaper reports to claim that the CVC had recommended not considering Akhtar for any post-retirement assignment or re-employment in any organisation, institution or university under the ambit of the Human Resource Development Ministry.
His letter does not spell out what was the CVC objection or why it denied vigilance clearance to Akhtar.
Three months ago, Akhtar, Jamia’s first woman V-C, had criticised the Delhi Police for barging into the Jamia campus following violence during anti-CAA protests in south Delhi.
Soon after police entered the campus, vandalised the library and beat up students on the night of December 15, Akhtar had put out a video message criticising the police, and saying she stood with her students. The next day, she called a press conference where, surrounded by senior officials, she reiterated that police entry and action on the campus were without permission and condemnable.
The search committee was constituted on October 17, 2018, and held its first meeting on November 6 that year, shortlisting 13 candidates from 107 applicants.
“After having personally interacted with the 13 shortlisted candidates on November 28, 2018, a panel of three names was recommended to you (the President), subject, of course, to vigilance clearance,” Ramaswamy’s letter to the President stated, adding that from this panel, Akhtar was picked.
The President approved her name for the post on April 11, 2019.
The letter stated: “This is a grave matter, since in the process of arriving at a short-list, otherwise meritorious candidates were passed over by the committee on account of even the remotest vigilance clearance issues.”
Besides Ramaswamy, Professor D P Singh and Justice (retired) M S A Siddiqui were members of the Search Committee.
Ramaswamy wrote: “In past few months, you have shown exemplary leadership as Visitor of the Central Universities by recalling the Vice Chancellors of two Central Universities when their credentials were in question.”
“The OM of the CVC quoted above is very strong in its indictment, and under these circumstances, I am writing to request that the same caution be exercised in the case of the Jamia Millia Islamia and appropriate remedial action be taken,” the letter stated.
When contacted, Ramaswamy said he did not wish to discuss the matter.
Texts and phone calls to Akhtar for comments elicited no response.
Professor Ramaswamy, a former V-C of the Central University of Hyderabad, has been associated with the School of Physical Sciences at JNU for more than three decades, and is currently associated with IIT-Delhi.
The Delhi High Court is already seized of a petition challenging Akhtar’s appointment to the post of V-C. On January 27, it sought the response of the HRD Ministry, Akhtar, the university, CVC and University Grants Commission in six weeks. The matter was listed for further hearing on August 25.
The High Court issued the notice on a plea by Jamia alumnus M Ehtesham-Ul-Haque, who urged the court to direct the HRD Ministry to produce official records pertaining to Akhtar’s appointment. The plea contended that the CVC had initially denied a vigilance clearance certificate to Akhtar.