Stays her reappointment as director of Kalakshetra Foundation after some staff members file petition

The Madras High Court on Tuesday stayed Leela Samson’s reappointment as director of Kalakshetra Foundation. The court passed the interim order on a petition filed earlier this month by 16 staff members of the Foundation.

With this development, the issue — that began with Ms. Samson’s resignation following a board meeting on April 10 and later saw her reappointment by the Ministry of Culture in June — has taken a U-turn.

“We had challenged her re-appointment that was made without any fresh notification or terms of appointment, and the High Court has now said she cannot continue,” K.M. Vijayan, senior counsel for the petitioners, said.

Between her resignation and reappointment, there was considerable drama at Kalakshetra, with one section of artistes mobilising support for her and another pointing to the CAG report that raised questions over certain decisions taken by Ms. Samson during her tenure.

The issue gained momentum when the governing board unanimously expressed its desire to have Ms. Samson back as the Foundation’s director, after it met on May 11.

Its resolution said: “The Board notes with regret Ms. Leela Samson’s resignation from the office of director, Kalakshetra Foundation. Recognising and appreciating her visionary leadership of this iconic institution over the last seven years as director, the Board unanimously expresses its desire to have her back as director.”

The Board had also recommend to the Ministry of Culture that it consider modifying the rules to enable the appointment of persons of eminence, ability, standing and experience in the fields of classical or traditional art forms of culture, viz. dance, music, theatre, literature, etc. and suitably modify the stipulation with regard to age.

Meanwhile, a section of Kalakshetra employees, who had for long felt that appointments and promotions had not been fair, decided to give vent to their resentment by moving the Madras High Court. Sai Sankar, assistant professor of music at the Foundation, along with 15 colleagues of his, filed a writ petition against Ms. Samson’s re-appointment.

Though four respondents — ministry of culture, Kalakshetra Foundation, chairman of the governing board Gopalkrishna Gandhi, and Leela Samson — received notices from the High Court, Mr. Gandhi alone filed a counter.

According to the counter, accessed by The Hindu, Mr. Gandhi said: “As such I have no comments to offer on the said reappointment/withdrawal of resignation of the 4 respondent as director of Kalakshetra Foundation.”

Responding to the Board’s resolution, Mr. Gandhi had, in his counter, said: “The resolution contemplated such a modification (in rules) in respect of all persons who may be considered for such appointment and not any particular individual. The resolution by its specific wording intended to open a window of opportunity for suitable and eligible persons to be considered for the position of director. It was category-specific and not person-specific.”

When contacted on Tuesday, following the interim order, Mr. Gandhi said: “Institutions are far greater than individuals, howsoever eminent they may be. It is important that Kalakshetra’s learning and teaching traditions remain on course.”