ICHR chief alleges Govt. interference

NEW DELHI NOV. 1. Undeterred by the slew of directives from the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry asking him to appoint its nominee as the ad hoc Member-Secretary, the Chairman of the Indian Council of Historical Research (ICHR), M.G.S. Narayanan, has sought the withdrawal of the nomination, alleging interference with the institution's autonomy.

Within hours of receiving yet another directive on Friday authorising its nominee, Kapil Kumar of the Indira Gandhi National Open University to take charge as the ad hoc Member-Secretary, the Chairman has wrote back to the Ministry, stating the reasons for not accepting the directives. "If the Ministry persists in this move, it will be held responsible for interfering with the autonomy of the Council," he said. Procedural and personal reasons apart, Prof. Narayanan has sought to impress upon the Ministry that there is no need for an ad hoc appointment now in view of the completion of the selection process for a regular Member-Secretary. The panel of selected scholars for the post would be forwarded to the Ministry next week for approval.

While the current standoff between the Council and the Ministry over the ad hoc appointment was triggered with the Chairman not accepting the Government's initial nominee for the post on the ground that he had not been consulted, it took a turn for the worse when Prof. Kumar's nomination was also turned down for the same reasons. This led to the Ministry invoking Section 16 (b) of ICHR's Memorandum of Association (MoA) & Rules to enforce its decision. However, this directive and successive reminders and orders have proved futile.

One of the reasons for non-compliance pertains to a technicality that necessitates the nominee to report in person or in writing to the Chairman, seeking permission to join. Stating that Prof. Kumar had failed to do that after September 15 — when the Ministry issued its first directive — Prof. Narayanan said that under the circumstances he had no option but to ask the seniormost official of the Council, P. K. Shukla, to continue officiating as the Member-Secretary.

About the legality of Dr. Shukla's appointment, Prof. Narayanan said that this was in keeping with the Third Schedule of ICHR Regulation, 1989, approved by the HRD Ministry. Also, he challenged the Ministry's interpretation of Section 16 (b) of MoA & Rules; stating that it was not meant to deal with administrative matters but "broad policies and programmes".

Further, citing the "wild and baseless allegations" made by Prof. Kumar against him, Prof. Narayanan noted that the appointment would affect the smooth functioning of the Council, and signed off with a plea that the Ministry take all these factors into consideration to save the ICHR from "further disgrace as a result of politically or personally motivated interference".

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