The human resource development ministry has questioned University Grants Commission chairman Sukhdeo Thorat’s move to appoint a full-fledged secretary to the UGC three months before his term ends. The ministry had received complaints from MPs and academicians in this regard.
The HRD ministry has asked the UGC to explain the move, which has landed Thorat and the government in a controversy at a time when the Commission itself may soon be replaced by a new higher education regulator.
In the letter received by the UGC on Tuesday, the ministry has articulated several of the questions raised by MPs and academicians who have written to HRD minister Sibal, sources close to the development, said.
The biggest question that the UGC chairman faces involves why he is pushing for a full-fledged secretary at the Commission just weeks before he quits office, when the UGC functioned with acting secretaries for almost five years under him.
Thorat’s move is also contrary to a convention the HRD ministry introduced in 2004 under which heads of autonomous institutions like the UGC are not supposed to make new appointments three months before the end of their term.
The timing of the proposed appointment — the UGC is holding the selection meeting on October 29 — has also raised eyebrows because the post of secretary was first advertised over a year and a half back.
The HRD ministry has, in its letter to the UGC, asked the Commission to explain why no secretary was picked over the past 18 months, sources said.
The appointment controversy comes even as the HRD ministry finalises a legislation to bring a National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) which will subsume the UGC and several other current higher education regulators.
Thorat is pushing for a full-fledged secretary weeks before he quits office
The UGC functioned with acting secretaries for almost five years under him
A HRD ministry convention says heads of autonomous institutions are not to make new appointments 3 months before the end of their terms