The suspense over the new Delhi University Vice Chancellor is likely to continue for some more time, with President Pranab Mukherjee directing the university to hold a meeting of its executive council (EC) to nominate a member for the search committee in place of former Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) chief, Professor Krishnaswamy Kasturirangan. The meeting is likely to take place on Tuesday or Wednesday. This, effectively, means that the process for selection of the new VC would be delayed.
The term of Prof Dinesh Singh, the present Vice Chancellor, comes to an end on 29 October and thus there is no way that the three-member selection committee will be able to arrive at a decision to name his successor by that time, in view of the large number of applicants for the job. Dr Kasturirangan and former Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), Vinod Rai, had been selected by the EC some time ago to be on the search committee, while Prof Ved Prakash, Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) had been asked by the President, in his capacity as Visitor, to be his nominee.
The first meeting of the panel was slated to be held on 9 October to screen the applications, but Dr Kasturirangan sent an email last week to the ministry, asking for clarity on whether he could be on the selection committee, since he had been appointed as an Honorary Professor for Life by the Delhi University in 2013. And whether there was a case of conflict of interest in view of his being an Honorary Professor and a member of the selection committee.
The ministry took a serious note of Dr Kasturirangan’s letter, since Delhi University statutes make it amply clear that members of the selection committee should have no association of any kind with the Delhi University. The ministry apparently held the VC responsible for the faux pas and urged the President to put him on compulsory waiting barely three weeks before his term ends. The President, however, rejected the ministry’s advice and concurrently directed the Delhi University to convene a meeting of the EC, which would be chaired by Prof Dinesh Singh, who described Kasturirangan’s selection as “an oversight” while narrowing on an eminent expert for the Search Committee.
Although it is totally unlikely, but Dinesh Singh, as per rules, can be asked to continue until his successor is named, as this is permissible under the Statutes of the University. However, in case, he relinquishes office on 29 October, which the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development favours, a ticklish decision would have to be taken on who shall officiate until a regular incumbent is selected.
Normally, it is the Pro Vice Chancellor, who functions as the Vice Chancellor in the absence of the VC. But technically, the positions of the Pro Vice Chancellor, Prof Sudish Pachauri, the Dean of Colleges, Prof Malashri Lal and the Director, South Campus, Prof Umesh Rai are co-terminus with that of the outgoing VC. It implies that none of them would officiate as they too would have to give up their office and thus, the university, for a brief period, would be run by the Registrar, Prof Tarun Kumar Das.
On his part, Prof Dinesh Singh has written a letter to the President, thanking him for his cooperation and support during his tenure, which comes to an end on 29 October. However, he has nowhere mentioned that he would be relinquishing charge on the said date, thereby leaving the decision of this matter on the President. This has given rise to speculation about his possible continuation for some time.
Prof Dinesh Singh was in the eye of a major controversy over the Four Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP), which had been introduced by the Delhi University in 2013 and which the present Union HRD Minister, Smriti Irani, wanted to be scrapped after the Bharatiya Janata Party government came to power last year. The programme was eventually shelved after initial resistance and this led to bad chemistry between the Minister and the Vice Chancellor. Prof Dinesh Singh, who belongs to an academic family (his father Prof U.N. Singh was Delhi University PVC in the late 1970s, and VC of Allahabad University thereafter), was piled with many offers from leading universities in the United States, but decided to complete his full tenure as the head of the country’s most prestigious university.
Meanwhile, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice Chancellor, Prof Sudhir Sapory, whose term ends in January, has expressed his wish to be relieved of his assignment before the completion of his tenure. Prof Sapory, an eminent scientist, wishes to return to full time academics. Consequently, the process for finding his successor has been initiated and the Visitor has nominated Bangalore based Prof Devendra Pal Singh (formerly with the NCERT in Delhi) as his nominee. The other members of the panel have been shortlisted, but so far have not been officially notified. There has been constant speculation that Dr Subramanian Swamy could be offered the coveted post, but he has apparently denied that he was in the race.