Crisis in Gandhi-founded Gujarat Vidyapith deepens, its status as deemed university at stake

The present crisis is a result of a long-standing tussle between the varsity and UGC over several issues including Vidyapith's autonomy
Last Updated 12 May 2022, 19:18 IST

The tussle between Mahatma Gandhi-founded Gujarat Vidyapith and University Grants Commission (UGC) has deepened with the latter issuing a show-cause notice to strip the 100 years old varsity of its "Deemed to be University status" on account of several alleged irregularities.

Vidyapith, meanwhile, got a breather from Gujarat high court which stayed the show cause and issued notice to the commission returnable on June 20. The varsity moved the court against the show cause notice last week. The varsity has contended that UGC doesn't have jurisdiction or power to issue a show cause to cancel "Deemed to be University" status which was granted under Section 3 of the University Grants Commission Act, 1956.

The university has argued that "the UGC can withdraw the notification of declaration as institution Deemed to be University only in case of violations leading to the issuance of unapproved degrees." Justice Bhargav D Karia while issuing notice to the commission granted relief to the university until the next hearing.

According to the court order, on March 25, the show-cause notice was issued by the secretary of UGC based on the Internal Audit Report for the period between April 1, 2018 to March 31, 2021 at the instance of the education ministry of the union government.

The varsity has claimed before the court that it had responded to the commission by an email on March 18 itself and pointed out a para-wise explanation to the objections raised in the audit report. However, the commission issued the show cause on March 25 "calling upon the petitioner to explain within a period of 21 days as to why the Deemed to be University status of the petitioner should not be withdrawn and meanwhile until the satisfactory explanation is provided by the petitioner the grant in aid is ordered to be stopped."

The present crisis is a result of a long-standing tussle between the varsity and UGC over several issues including Vidyapith's autonomy, several appointments and allegation of financial irregularities. 100 per cent funded by the UGC, Vidyapith has its own set of rules which are not in "tandem" with UGC that includes the appointment of chancellor, vice-chancellor and other staff. Because of the tussle, the commission has held up funds resulting in delayed payments to its staff's salaries and pensions.

Last year, the commission objected to the appointment of its current vice-chancellor (V-C) Rajendra Khimani on the grounds of not following procedures, one of them was not including a member of UGC in the selection committee. As a result, Khimani's appointment was canceled and a fresh process was followed.

Khimani was appointed for the second time despite UGC member Navin Sheth's objection. It was pointed out that Khimani was not a professor required for the top job and also he was facing vigilance inquiry. Meanwhile, the varsity hit a fresh controversy after earlier this month UGC uploaded minutes of its 554th meeting held in November 2021 on its website which stated that it had been decided to direct the Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith to remove Khimani immediately in view of several procedural lapses.

"...there are procedural lapses in the appointment of Dr. Rajendra Khimani as Vice-Chancellor of Gujarat Vidyapith (Deemed to be University) and ii) the Fact Finding Committee of UGC constituted separately has found that Dr. Rajendra Khimani was also responsible for certain lapses in the administrative and financial functioning of the Gujarat Vidyapith as Registrar during the period from 01.04.2004 to 30.04.2019," the minutes of the meeting stated.

Soon, Khimani moved the high court where the court ordered UGC not to take any coercive action against Khimani. The matter is pending.

(Published 12 May 2022, 19:18 IST)

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