Rift over reservation at JNU

Urvashi Sarkar

Some allege that the UGC guidelines are not binding on JNU

Some students have formed a Forum for Defending and Implementing Reservations

NEW DELHI: Ahead of the Jawaharlal Nehru University Academic Council (AC) meeting scheduled for March 18, the issue of proposed reservations for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) at the associate professor level and the professor level, and for the Other Backward Classes at the assistant professor level has fractured opinion in the JNU faculty.

The JNU Executive Council (EC) decided to implement reservations in April 2007. The posts were accordingly advertised. This was opposed by some in the AC in November 2009. The matter was placed for consideration in the EC in January 2010.

A 2005 HRD Ministry order to the UGC states: “…in exercise of the powers vested under Section 20(1) of the UGC Act, 1956, the Government hereby directs the UGC to ensure effective implementation of the reservation policy in the Central universities and those of (sic) institutions deemed to be universities receiving aid from the public funds except in minority institutions under Article 30(1) of the Constitution”.

Following the order, the UGC in 2006 issued guidelines stating: “Reservation is applicable to all teaching posts such as the posts of lecturers, readers and professors by whatever nomenclature the posts are known and to all posts of non-teaching staff of all the universities, deemed to be universities, colleges and other grant-in-aid research institutions and centres …”

Some have alleged that the UGC guidelines were tagged on to the MHRD order and were not binding on JNU.

A letter written by JNU EC member P. Sainath states that the UGC guidelines were government policy and quoting from the 2005 MHRD order states: “The UGC is under directions from the government to strictly implement the said reservations by all grant-in-aid institutions”.

According to the letter, the fact that JNU was party to a Supreme Court case in which the Citizens for Equality had filed a writ petition in 2008 challenging the UGC guidelines, was not revealed in the January 2010 EC meeting was a “very serious matter” in the context of the discussion at the meeting.

A counter affidavit was filed by JNU which states that: “JNU is only implementing the directions of the Central Government and the UGC…JNU has not formulated any scheme of its own to provide the reservation in question…as far as JNU is concerned, while it is obligatory on its part to implement the guidelines/reservation policy of the Govt/MHRD/UGC…it has no alternative but to implement the direction of the Central Government.”

It has been argued that the MHRD executive order in itself does not carry any kind of guidelines or modalities to meet the desired ends. Therefore on the basis of this order, the UGC issued guidelines in 2006 for its implementation.

Centre of Indian Languages Assistant Professor Prof. Ram Chandra added: “Non-implementation of reservations in higher education is a mockery of the Constitution.”

Regarding concern expressed by some that the scope for selecting the best faculty at the senior professor and associate professor levels would be limited through reservation, School of Computer and System Sciences Dean Prof. Sonajharia Minz said: “This smacks of prejudice and bias that a certain section of population cannot produce quality candidates. Some other Central Universities are in the process of implementing these reservations.”

Some JNU students have also formed a Forum for Defending and Implementing Reservations.