He refutes HRD Ministry’s claim that his affiliation to the Aam Aadmi Party amounts to conflict of interest
A day after Yogendra Yadav was served a show-cause by the Human Resource Development Ministry, asking him to explain why he should not be removed as member of the University Grants Commission for his allegiance to a political party, the political scientist said he would not step down as the notice was politically motivated.
The Ministry had told Prof. Yadav that his affiliation to the Aam Aadmi Party “substantially altered his antecedents and credentials,” and it amounted to conflict of interest.
But Prof. Yadav attributed the action against him to his objecting to several proposals of the UGC, particularly the setting up of an inter-university centre on teacher education at Kakinada in Andhra Pradesh, Lok Sabha constituency of HRD Minister M.M. Pallam Raju.
“I will not resign. I have seven days to respond,” he told The Hindu here on Thursday.
Prof. Yadav pointed out that he had already stepped down from all other government advisory bodies, and that he offered to resign as UGC member soon after joining the AAP, but he was asked to continue by the then HRD Minister, Kapil Sibal.
This is the first time in the UGC’s history that a member is sought to be removed, though both the Ministry and the UGC attributed the show-cause to each other. Unmindful of the fact that the notice was issued by a Joint Secretary, Mr. Raju told reporters that the UGC was an autonomous body and that the Ministry should not be dragged into the issue.The UGC has also washed its hands of the matter, saying that since it is the Ministry which appoints members and guides the Commission under Section 20 (1) of the UGC Act on issues of national interest, it is well within its rights to seek the removal of any member.
‘Notice mala fide’
Coming to Prof. Yadav’s defence, fellow UGC member M.M. Ansari said that under the UGC Act, 1956, affiliation to political parties was not a ground for removal and the issuance of the show-cause was mala fide.
Sources in the Ministry told The Hindu it was not aware that Prof. Yadav had joined a party and it acted only after receiving a letter from a senior Congress leader about his political affiliations.
But Prof. Yadav pointed out that the UGC (Disqualification, Retirement and Conditions of Service) Rules, 1992 do not cite political affiliation as a ground for removal of a member.
Prof. Yadav was appointed member on July 27, 2011 for three years. It is a non-executive, honorary position carrying no salary or perks except a routine honorarium fee per sitting, which he never accepted.
The political scientist, also a Senior Fellow at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, said he joined the anti-corruption movement demanding a Jan Lokpal and was one of the signatories to the appeal for formation of the AAP, which was formally launched on November 26 last. He said he then informed Mr. Sibal, through his personal secretary Uma Shankar, of his intention to step down, but was told “that the Minister has no objection to my continuation in the UGC since the government respects the autonomy of statutory bodies.”
“In fact, he [Uma Shankar] cited the example of [the] National Advisory Council, where some of the members took part in political protest against the government,” Prof Yadav said.
Also, he said, the UGC’s formal Policy on Conflict of Interest and Code of Conduct for the Members of the Commission did not mention political activity as a potential conflict of interest. “In any case, there is nothing in the Aam Aadmi Party’s ideology or practice that goes against the objectives and functioning of the UGC.” As for his opposition to the proposal, brought by the UGC on July 31, to set up an Inter-University Centre on Teacher Education at J.N. Technical University, Kakinada, Prof. Yadav pointed out that he had raised objections on both procedural and substantive terms and said he would record his dissent if it was pushed through. But the item was eventually deferred.
Prof. Yadav had also expressed his reservations about Delhi University’s four-year undergraduate programme, transfer policy and doctoring of the minutes of the Commission’s meetings.