The human resource development (HRD) ministry has concluded that charges of corruption and an anti-minority bias leveled against the University Grants Commission (UGC) chairman by the higher education regulator’s acting secretary are baseless.
Niloufer Kazmi, the acting secretary of the commission, had in September written to the HRD ministry accused UGC chairman Professor Ved Prakash of bending rules to help his wife land a job as a registrar despite not being qualified for the post.
Kazmi, whose allegation coincided with a UGC selection panel rejecting her candidature for a full-fledged job as the commission’s secretary, also complained to the minority affairs ministry and the national commission for minorities (NCM).
But the HRD ministry, which examined the allegations, has found that the main allegations against Prakash “are not substantiated by any concrete proof.”
“Levelling of such serious allegations not substantiated by adequate evidence by an acting secretary of the Commission is unfortunate to say the least,” ministry joint secretary RP Sisodia has written, in a note on the HRD ministry’s examination of the charges.
Prakash had faced the same charge of misusing his position to assist his wife, Shimla, and another caste bias charge earlier.
Ironically, at that time, Kazmi wrote to the ministry arguing that the UGC found the charges baseless.
In her complaint though, she has claimed she was pressurized by Prakash to write the earlier letter clearing him.
On November 9, 2011, the UGC received a complaint ostensibly from PRR Nair, a former registrar of the National University for Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), where Prakash was Vice Chancellor before joining the commission.
The letter – which was eventually found to be carrying a forged signature that did not actually belong to Nair – accused Prakash of favouring his wife in helping her earn a PhD from Jamia Hamdard, a Delhi-based deemed university.
Shimla, the complaint alleged, did not have the educational qualifications set out under the 2010 regulations for minimum qualifications for PhD candidates.
The pseudonymous complainant also alleged that Prakash’s wife did not do her course work during her PhD programme. Finally, the letter questioned Shimla’s credentials for her appointment as registrar at a Haryana university.
The HRD ministry then asked the UGC to respond to the charges.
Later that month, on November 17, Kazmi wrote on the UGC’s behalf to the ministry.
“The complaint has been carefully perused and has been found to be baseless, false, motivated and malicious,” she wrote, dismissing the charges suggesting that Prakash’s wife had benefited from a violation of norms.
But in her complaint in September 2012 against Prakash, Kazmi has claimed she was pressurized by the UGC chairman to write the letter exonerating him.
Writing to Sisodia in a letter dated September 3, she said she was summoned by Prakash to his office and “told to sign the typed note sheet and the letter prepared by him on his own computer.”
“When the note sheet and letter prepared by him were handed over to me for signing, I requested him to give me time to examine the case to which he used very abusive and harsh language,” Kazmi alleged.
“Under pressure I had no option but to sign the note sheet and the letter. I sincerely regret that I could not muster the courage to resist his abnormal pressure.”
However, Prakash, in his defense, has shown documents that establish that his wife applied for a PhD programme in February 2009, when he had no links to the UGC. Prakash, NUEPA VC at the time, was given additional charge as vice chairman of UGC in March 2009 and actually took up that assignment only in May.
At the time when his wife was appointed as registrar by the BPS Mahila Vishwavidyalaya in Sonepat, Haryana, on August 25, 2010, there were no regulations stipulating criteria claimed by Kazmi, which would have ruled Shimla ineligible.