Union Minister Kumari Selja says government will respond legally to High Court stay

Union Minister for Culture Kumari Selja, reacting to Madras High Court’s recent stay of the re-appointment of Leela Samson as director of Kalakshetra Foundation, on Friday, said her ministry would do “whatever it is required to do legally.”

The minister was visiting Kalakshetra for the first time ever since the Foundation came under the spotlight following Ms. Samson’s resignation in April and her subsequent reappointment in June. Earlier this week, the High Court passed an interim order, on a petition filed by 16 staff members of the Foundation, staying Ms. Samson’s reappointment.

Asked if the ministry was considering appointing a new director, she said: “The ministry just re-appointed her. Why would we appoint a new director?” On the legal course that the ministry plans to take, the minister said: “I do not wish to comment further.”

While her remarks suggested that the ministry was backing Ms. Samson, certain developments that staff members told The Hindu about seemed to indicate otherwise. According to a senior staff member, a search committee had been constituted to begin the hunt for a new director.

Foundation chairman Gopalkrishna Gandhi reportedly opted out of this committee, which had initially drawn up a list of 25 potential candidates, including Ms. Samson. “We have to wait and watch now,” the staff member said.

For many on the campus, Ms. Selja’s visit meant one more step towards a possible solution to the current turbulence. Amid the buzz of students at the campus, the institution’s own staff members could be seen gathered at different spots, watching the guests being given a guided tour of the campus.

After spending some time at Svanubhava, the ongoing cultural festival at Kalakshetra, Ms. Selja watched a flute class in progress, before she saw classes in vocal music and basic lessons in Bharatanatyam.

While walking from one cottage to another, Ms. Selja suddenly turned to Mr. Gandhi and asked: “Where is Leela ji.” Mr. Gandhi, in turn, asked V. Venu, joint secretary, ministry of culture, who was standing nearby. “She is away on study leave,” Dr. Venu said. Ms. Samson is in the United States, conducting workshops as part of a prior commitment.

The team from the ministry later attended a practise session where senior students rehearsed a tillana under a banyan tree. Ms. Selja also caught a glimpse of Geeta Govindam, one of Rukmini Devi’s older productions, currently being taught to students by former principal A. Janardhanan. According to sources, he was recently brought in by Mr. Gandhi to revive some of the celebrated productions Kalakshetra was known for.

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