Will AMU vice chancellor be allowed to continue? (News Analysis)

Aligarh, Sep 22 (IANS) Will the Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) vice chancellor, Lt. Gen. Zameer Uddin Shah (retd), exit before the September 26 hearing in the Supreme Court challenging his appointment for not fulfilling the laid-down norms or will the Union HRD ministry plead for allowing him to continue till his term ends in May 2017?

These questions are doing the rounds in the academic corridors here after the apex court earlier this week pointedly asked for the rationale behind appointing Shah despite his not fulfilling the academic requirements defined by the University Grants Commission (UGC).

After successfully postponing the inevitable for the past several years, the AMU administration finds itself cornered as it has failed to put forward convincing arguments to defend Shah’s appointment.

The case has been hanging fire since 2010 following a petition in the Allahabad High Court against his appointment. Earlier this week, the case was about to be postponed again but for the dogged persistence of senior advocate Prashant Bhushan who wanted to be heard.

Informed sources in the AMU said there were three options available: one, Shah resigns on his own; two, the Union HRD ministry requests the court to let him continue for one more year till a suitable replacement is found (the process has already begun); three, the apex court reserves its judgment to allow all stakeholders to come to a workable solution.

The anti-VC lobby in the AMU, which is fairly strong as the AMUTA teachers’ body, is opposing Shah for his alleged high-handedness — while a number of corruption charges have been made against him — will definitely push for his removal.

“We are opposing him because he does not follow rules. I have been a victim of his high handedness. Without any justification he suspended me. The campus looks like a cantonment, as all top positions are held by ex-army men,” AMUTA secretary Mustafa Zaidi told IANS.

Naseem, an elected member of the university’s Executive Council, told IANS: “Since the matter is under the consideration of the court, it is not proper to comment. Whatever the apex court decides will have to be followed.”

Several other important academics, without wanting to be named, opined that the UGC norms are mandatory and have to be followed in letter and spirit. The present VC has to go if the UGC support in terms of grants has to continue, they said.

“AMU is definitely not in a position to lose grants from the UGC,” a source said, indicating the university was not really in a position to take on the establishment in standing up for Shah, the elder brother of actor Naseeruddin Shah.

When the Supreme Court judges pointedly asked what the VC’s academic qualifications were, there was no clear-cut response from his lawyers, including former Congress minister Salman Khurshid. The plea advanced was that the AMU is a minority institution and had the right to follow its own rules.

“You are a central university. UGC regulations apply to you as they are mandatory. The VC must be an academician and he should be a person who has worked for at least 10 years as a professor in a university,” a bench comprising Chief Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice A.M. Khanwilkar said.

“If every other central university follows the regulations why can’t AMU? Why appoint a former army officer? We are not questioning his abilities. We are on the question whether his appointment is as per the UGC regulations,” the bench added.

According to UGC guidelines on the appointment of vice chancellors, it has been clearly stated that he/she should be a distinguished academician with a minimum of 10 years experience as a senior professor in a reputed institution.

(Brij Khandelwal can be contacted at brij.k@ians.in)

–IANS

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