V-C Arun Kumar Grover
V-C Arun Kumar Grover

PU governance reforms: Senate asks registrar to withdraw V-C’s affidavit

V-C Arun Kumar Grover refuses to withdraw affidavit during the 5-hr heated debate, senate decides to file fresh one.
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Arshdeep Arshi, Chandigarh
UPDATED ON MAY 07, 2018 08:34 PM IST

A week after the Panjab University syndicate revoked its powers assigned to vice-chancellor Arun Kumar Grover after he refused to withdraw his affidavit submitted before the Punjab and Haryana high court suggesting governance reforms, the issue led to a five-hour heated debate in the senate.

The senate asked the V-C to withdraw the affidavit, but he refused. Finally, the senate unanimously decided that the registrar should be directed to approach the court to withdraw the affidavit filed by Grover and file a fresh affidavit. 

The varsity is governed by the senate, comprising elected members as well as those nominated by the Vice-President of India, who is the varsity chancellor. Day-to-day affairs are taken care of by the executive body called syndicate, where those from the senate are elected for a year.

Four months before his retirement, Grover on April 17 had submitted an affidavit in the HC stating that the university’s governing structure needed “serious reforms”. Taking note, the court had put the Centre on notice. 

The affidavit stated that groupism in the 91-member PU senate has reached such a sorry state that discussions do not happen on merit and factionalism prevails. It also put a question mark on elections for deans of faculties and graduate constituency of the senate. 

In its meeting on April 21, the 15-member syndicate had asked the V-C to withdraw the affidavit as he had not consulted it before submitting the document. After the V-C refused and said he will inform the court that the affidavit was submitted in his personal capacity, the syndicate on April 29 withdrew the powers delegated to him. 

 ‘Restore V-C’s powers’ 

Several senators, including Pawan Bansal, VK Sibal, and Jarnail Singh, asked the syndicate to restore powers delegated to the V-C, suggesting the move was not in the interest of the university. The senators said several pending works will be halted if the decision taken during the meeting last Sunday is not reversed.

Powers delegated to the V-C include filing appeal in a court of law besides issuing of appointment letters while anticipating senate’s approval, appointment of heads of departments where incumbents have completed the term and adjustment of dates in leave.

Meanwhile, senator Ashok Goyal said the V-C can exercise the delegated powers, but he will have to inform certain matters to the syndicate.

 ‘What is the hitch?’

During the senate meeting on Sunday, Prof RP Bambah suggested that a committee should be formed to discuss and take a call on the issue of affidavit rather than having a debate in the senate.

“We should not compromise the dignity of the V-C, senate and syndicate,” he said. Senator Tarlochan Singh, too, supported this view, while suggesting to resolve the issue amicably. 

However, the suggestion did not go down well with other senators. “Forming a committee is procrastination, it is postponement. It needs immediate discussion,” said Shelly Walia. As other senators endorsed the view, the debate continued.

Anu Chatrath called the affidavit “premature” as a reforms committee is already working on a proposal. “Let the committee come to a conclusion,” she said.  Meanwhile, senator Pawan Bansal said the V-C shouldn’t have filed the affidavit and the registrar represents the university in all legal matters.

“Unless we withdraw the affidavit, the germs of disinfection will remain. What is the hitch if you withdraw the affidavit? Are you justified in filing an affidavit using all those words for members of the senate?” he asked the V-C. 

The senators said they all want governance reforms, but after discussions. Members of the reforms committee said their report will be available within 10 days and there could be a discussion after that. 

Senator Gurjot Malhi proposed that the senate, with the approval of the chair, unanimously decide to direct the registrar to approach the court to withdraw the affidavit filed by the V-C, and file a fresh affidavit in due course. The senate approved it as the V-C refused to withdraw the affidavit. 

 Furore over legal opinion 

Several senators, including the sub-committee constituted by the syndicate over the affidavit issue, accused the registrar, Col GS Chadha (retd), of taking directions from the V-C. The sub-committee had asked the registrar to take legal opinion on the matter. In the legal opinion dated May 2, senior advocate Girish Agnihotri had written: “There is no need to withdraw the affidavit filed by the PU V-C, which is stated to be filed and drafted by worthy vice-chancellor personally.”

On this, senators Ashok Goyal and Subhash Sharma asked the registrar as to why the legal opinion was not on the terms it was seeked on. “We did not ask the counsel whether there is or isn’t any need to withdraw the affidavit. The syndicate had asked the Registrar to initiate the process of withdrawal of affidavit. Why is the V-C’s letter to the syndicate members quoted in the counsel’s statement? How the reply of the V-C became the terms of opinion of the counsel?” Goyal questioned, while mentioning that registrar and the V-C went together to meet the advocate.

The V-C said he had taken Agnihotri’s appointment and he went in the registrar’s car as his car was not available. He said the registrar talked to the advocate independently. “I did not consult the V-C,” said the registrar. 

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