Legal controversies in the recent past seem to have cost St Stephen’s College dearly. According to sources, the institution has spent close to Rs 8.5 lakh on fighting legal battles since Valson Thampu’s appointment as Officer on Special Duty (OSD).
The amount spent had received post facto ratification at the last Governing Body meeting held on May 27, confirmed Governing Body members. The litigation expenses for year 2005-06 and 2006-07 were approximately Rs55,000 and Rs1,02,000 respectively.
The issue of litigation expenses came under the spotlight after a letter written by faculty and Governing Body members AD Mathur, Malay Neerav and Pankaj K Mishra to Bishop Sunil K Singh.
The letter states: “We (Mathur, Neerav and Mishra) have constantly been bringing to your (Bishop) notice the fact that despite spending lakhs of rupees on attorneys we have not received sound legal advice as is evident from the unfortunate situation in the recent past where the case filed before that Supreme court had to be withdrawn. It is the failure of the legal advice by our learned counsels that despite a favourable judgment in the from the highest court of land, constant legal battles in the lower courts have hindered the process of appointment of teachers and the principal in the College.”
The college reportedly paid Rs2.5lakh to Rohinton Nariman for his appearance for the Supreme Court case mentioned in the letter. “The college should be administered as per the laws enshrined in the constitution to avoid any legal controversies, which have already adversely affected St Stephen’s reputation and finances,” said Malay Neerav, a member of the Governing Body.
Supreme Council spokesperson and St. Stephen’s lawyer Sunil Mathews reacted strongly to the issue. “Any allegation concerning the college’s legal representation is ridiculous and lacks substance. St. Stephen’s has engaged extremely competent legal help and the teachers accusing them have absolutely no idea of how the law works.
Moreover, expenses are bound to be high when you want to consult some of the biggest and eminent names for these long-drawn litigations. I don’t think any of the people consulted will take kindly to the accusations made by these teachers,” he said.
The college has currently four cases pending in HC, including the Sheetal P Singh petition challenging the appointment of Thampu as OSD, the contempt petition against the Bishop and the RC Malhan petition asking for the appointment of an OSD for the college.