The outgoing secretary of the University Grants Commission, India's apex higher education regulator, has accused the body's chairman Ved Prakash of discriminating against minorities in a complaint to the National Commission for Minorities (NCM).
In her letter – a copy of which is with HT -- Niloufer Kazmi, the outgoing secretary, has alleged that Prakash influenced the UGC's selection process for appointing a new secretary, to deny her a chance to continue at the Commission. She has also accused Prakash of armtwisting her into conniving with him in shielding his wife from allegations that she is ineligible for the post of registrar she holds at a Haryana university.
Prakash has rubbished her allegations, which coincide with the Commission rejecting her application in favour of a new secretary. Kazmi was one of eight candidates shortlisted for interviews for the post.
But the controversy and debate surrounding the appointment of the new secretary has made the UGC scrap the completed selection process and reinitiate the procedure under a new selection panel.
"Kazmi's allegations are serious," a senior human resource development (HRD) ministry official said.
"But the timing of her allegations, considering that she remained silent all along, is certainly suspicious."
The UGC has not had a permanent secretary for the past five years. But three years back, Kazmi, who was already with the UGC, was appointed acting secretary under then chairman Sukhdeo Thorat. Prakash, who was earlier Vice Chancellor of the National University for Educational Planning and Administration (NUEPA), joined as Vice Chairman of the UGC on May 8, 2009.
On September 3, the day the UGC selection panel met and picked Akhilesh Gupta – a scientist with the department of science and technology – for the post of secretary, Kazmi wrote to the HRD ministry. In her letter, she accused Prakash of shielding the "improper" appointment of his wife as the registrar of BPS University, a state university in Haryana.
According to Kazmi, Prakash's wife does not have the academic qualifications required for the post.
She isn't the first to have raised concerns over the appointment of Prakash's wife. A letter from a former, allegedly disgruntled UGC employee, PRR Nair, had in 2011 also leveled the same charge against Prakash.
But the signature on Nair's letter did not match his signature on UGC files, suggesting that the letter raising allegations against Prakash may have been forged.
Kazmi, then the acting secretary of the UGC, had herself written to the HRD ministry dismissing the letter purportedly written by Nair, giving a clean chit to Prakash's wife.
In her letter to the HRD ministry now, she has accused Prakash of using “very abusive and harsh language” to pressurize her into accepting his version and writing to the government clearing the acting chairman's wife's name.
“I sincerely regret that I could not muster courage to resist his abnormal pressure,” Kazmi has written in her September 2, 2012 letter.
But Prakash's wife joined the Haryana varsity at a time when new regulations on qualifications required for academic and administrative posts had come into effect, overruling earlier regulations that laid down conditions she did not meet.
Kazmi has also accused Prakash of facilitating his wife's application for a PhD at Delhi's Jamia Hamdard – a deemed university – despite her not meeting eligibility criteria.
However, Prakash's wife gained admission to the PhD programme in February 2009 – three months before he joined the UGC.
Kazmi, in her letter to the NCM, has alleged that the selection process that picked Gupta was flawed because it did not have a member of the scheduled castes or scheduled tribes, and from minority communities. But others involved with the selection process are arguing that higher education secretary Ashok Thakur, a member of the selection panel, does belong to a scheduled tribe. The requirement for a minority member on the selection panel is recommended but not required under rules of the department of personnel and training (DoPT), they are arguing.
"But because the process has been vitiated, we are following the spirit of the DoPT rules and have appointed a minority member on the new selection panel," a UGC source said.