Thapar University (TU) has been citing guidelines of the University Grants Commission (UGC) as the reason for abolishing quota for Punjab students in undergraduate engineering courses, but when it comes to guidelines regarding the governance structure of the institute, TU has no qualms in dragging the UGC to court.
The university has approached the Punjab and Haryana high court against the 'UGC (Institutions Deemed to be Universities) Regulations 2010', specifically against section 5 that stipulates a certain type of governance system.
Section 5 says that the vice-chancellor (in TU, its director) will be the chairman of the board of governors (BoG) of the institute. But even after around two years of the regulations coming into force on May 21, 2010, TU has not restructured the BoG. At TU, the director is Abhijit Mukherjee, but the chairman of the BoG is Sudhir Mohan Trehan, who is also one of the seven trustees and is the vice-chairman of Crompton Greaves, a subsidiary company of Avantha Group owned by Gautam Thapar, chairman of the trust that runs TU.
Also, there has to be a selection committee comprising a nominee of the chancellor, the state government and the BoG that will select the vice-chancellor. There is no such committee at TU. The UGC guidelines further say that on the BoG, there will be only one nominee of the sponsoring society or trust.
At present, TU has more than three members on the BoG who are Gautam Thapar's relatives or employees of Avantha Group. And the guidelines stipulate that the president of the society or the trust running the institution or any of his relatives cannot occupy the chancellor's post. TU, at present, has no chancellor.
In fact, it was after three reminders from the UGC to adopt the guidelines that the TU management challenged section 5, because it "gives more powers to the vice-chancellor, and curtail powers of the trustees over the management", sources said.
The case, Thapar University v/s UGC, number 5987 of 2012, was filed on March 20 by TU. The next hearing for the case is April 30 and a notice has been issued to UGC in this case.
TU registrar Dilip Kumar Patnaik confirmed that TU has challenged the UGC guidelines. But he refused to give more details, saying, "I have joined just a few days ago."
The director remained unavailable for comment.
'CONTENTION defies LOGIC'
"There are many deemed universities across India that still have state quota. TU cannot scrap the provision by citing UGC rules," said an official from the state technical education department. Congress MLA from Fatehgarh Sahib Kuljit Singh Nagra said, "TU is not an institute built by a private group. The government of Punjab has played a big role by giving land and funds to it. The university is just trying to fool the people by citing UGC rules."
He threatened a stir if the quota was not restored. The National Students' Union of India (NSUI), a wing of the Congress, also criticised TU. Harpal Singh, former state president of the NSUI, issued a statement here: "Thapar is using prime land (250 acres) worth Rs 5,000 crore given by the state. The state government should intervene in the matter immediately."