Process for senate polls initiated, Panjab University tells HC
Panjab University has told the Punjab and Haryana high court that it has initiated process to hold senate elections, which are pending since August. However, the varsity also said that at the same time, it is actively considering governance reforms in view of the National Education Policy 2020, according to which the senate is to be replaced with a board of governors.
PU’s response came on a plea of seven former senators, who had moved the HC in December, seeking senate elections. They had also accused the varsity of delaying the polls at the behest of the ruling dispensation at the Centre.
The university has told court that it has sought permission from six state governments — Punjab, Haryana, Uttarakhand, Delhi, Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan — where polling booths of different constituencies have to be set up. It also said that the Punjab Vidhan Sabha speaker has been requested to elect two members from among themselves to the senate, being one of the electoral constituencies.
However, PU added that the National Education Policy contemplates structural reforms at every level, including higher education, and the varsity, its chancellor and central government are actively seized of the matter of governance reforms.
The senate is a 91-member apex governing body of the university. While 36 are nominated by the Vice-President of India (who is also the university chancellor), two are nominated from the Punjab assembly, six are ex-officio members and the remaining 47 are elected. The four-year term of the previous senate ended on October 31, 2020. While the elections were scheduled in August last year, these were postponed twice by vice-chancellor Raj Kumar due to the pandemic.
The one-year term of the syndicate, which is PU’s executive body and elected from among the senators, also ended on December 31, leaving the varsity without a governing body.
‘Plea grounded on political considerations’
“...the entire petition is grounded on political considerations, with a view to stall the smooth working and transition of the university to become compliant with the National Education Policy 2020,” the varsity has told court, adding that “vested interests” must not be permitted to “abuse” the extraordinary jurisdiction of the HC on an issue such as this, it being a policy matter.
PU has also underlined that the senate polls were deferred due to Covid-19 outbreak on the advice of the Chandigarh administration and requests from the staff members and faculty.
The varsity has further argued that as the term of the elected members has expired, there exists absolutely no locus standi with the former senators to demand polls. It has also questioned how the petitioners did not make the central government a party to the matter.
The former senators had made Raj Kumar a respondent in the matter. However, the V-C has taken exception to it, arguing that only the registrar should have been made a party. The V-C has also informed the HC that he tried to convene a syndicate meeting through online mode at least twice, but the members did not turn up. The matter will now be taken up on January 27.