To seek urgent intervention against
This petition had 453 supporters
The Hon’ble Chancellor of NUJS and the Chief Justice of India,
Subject: Loss of confidence in the Vice Chancellor and request for urgent redressal
We introduce ourselves as the alumni of the National University of Juridical Sciences (NUJS), Kolkata. Out of immense concern for our beloved alma mater, we request you to intervene on a matter of serious urgency and concern.
Of late, you may have seen several media reports which point to various instances of unrest at NUJS. After speaking with several recent graduates, few faculty members and current students, we have verified many of these reports and are compelled to write to you about the sordid state of affairs in our alma mater. Unfortunately, we can no longer remain mute spectators to the abysmal fall in standards of our beloved University. The present set of circumstances lead us to seriously doubt the efficacy of the current leadership in retaining the academic edge that NUJS had built over the last several years.
Although there are a multitude of compelling reasons for us to seek your intervention, we restrict ourselves to a few of the most important ones below;
Faculty Retention and Fresh Appointments:
In the immediate aftermath of the change in leadership at NUJS (the current VC took charge on 01.12.2011), a disturbing trend of faculty attrition has been observed, owing to which current students have been deprived of learning from reputed and highly qualified faculty members. Over the past two years, more than ten distinguished faculty members have either left their positions for other offers or are on leave for higher studies or other commitments. We annex herewith a list of faculty members that have effectively left the University (including those on leave) and this list (link available at bit.ly/1dCZGuJ) is marked as ANNEXURE A. Not only are our students deprived of high quality education, as promised to them, the University’s reputation has also taken a severe beating with this high level of attrition. The recent hires at the University do not match up to the earlier hires, in terms of quality or reputation. Illustratively, a chart demonstrating the difference in the quality of intake of faculty during the tenure of the earlier Vice Chancellor (Prof. M.P. Singh) and the present Vice Chancellor (Prof. P. Ishwara Bhat) is outlined (link available at http://bit.ly/1eKPhzn) in ANNEXURE B.
The response of the current leadership to this mass exodus of faculty has been a nonchalant “Wherever higher positions are available, [faculty] will go. That is something that cannot be prevented.” (The link is available at http://bit.ly/1dgbAzQ).While this is true and is something that may not be prevented unless a faculty has other compulsions to remain there, however there are many instances where teachers have left NUJS for the same positions elsewhere or even lower to which they were holding. Illustratively, an Assistant Professor recently resigned to join NLU Delhi without pay protection. Given that he joined NUJS in 2009, foregoing pay protection and seniority at NLU Delhi essentially means that he would have to start back at the bottom of the academic pecking order. More recently, a Chair Professor, who is renowned the world over for his contributions in the field of Intellectual Property law, was severely victimized by the current Vice Chancellor (VC) for questioning his various policies and taking issue with the fall in academic standards. His leave application (on grounds of his fathers’ terminal illness) was vehemently opposed on a misrepresentation by the VC to the Executive Council. He therefore put in his papers, without even searching for an alternative job. We attach his resignation letter made public by a legal blog (link available at http://bit.ly/1ahe12L) as ANNEXURE C.
This apart, during the last round of faculty recruitments, one promising Indian scholar from Netherlands had applied for the post of Assistant Professor. Subsequently, he requested for a Skype interview since he could not travel to Kolkata at a short notice. This request was turned down and thereafter he joined IIT Delhi. In his defense, the VC has stated that a Skype call could not replace a classroom (demo) presentation and hence he rejected the proposal. However, during those round of faculty interviews, there were no classroom presentations given by any of the candidates and what is worse, the past practice of presenting a paper before the entire faculty was also discontinued. Without casting any aspersion, it is pertinent to note that while this scholar from the Netherlands was not considered for the post (since his Skype interview was refused), a former student of the VC was appointed as Assistant Professor. The profiles of both these candidates are attached herewith as ANNEXURE D (link available at http://hss.iitd.ac.in/content/dr-naveen-thayyil) and ANNEXURE E (link available at http://nujs.edu/faculty/mp-chengappa.html). We are also given to believe that the Hon’ble Vice Chancellor sat in on the selection committee which appointed two of his former students (to whom he served as PhD guide) to the position of Assistant Professor and Associate Professor. We are given to believe that he failed to disclose this conflict of interest to the Executive Council which ratified the appointments.
Although some vacancies were filled up, the widespread feeling that one gets is that the teachers currently recruited are no match for the ones that have left. This has led to severe resentment amongst the students. Further, NUJS’ reputation in the legal circles, particularly potential recruiters where many alumni members now work has taken a huge beating. It is therefore no surprise that many teachers who were slated to join NUJS have refused to do so. For instance, a DPhil graduate from Oxford University who was supposed to join NUJS after coming back from there joined NLU Delhi in stead of NUJS. In his interview to Times of India, he has stated, “Initially, I accepted the offer but my conversation with the present authorities did not assure me of the kind of teaching-learning freedom that NLU Delhi was willing to offer me, so I decided for the latter.”A news item documenting this is attached herewith as ANNEXURE F (link available at http://bit.ly/1gFEybp). Seeing the state of affairs, those who were on study leave, have also refused to come back to their parent institution.
Due to the vacancies, existing teachers are compelled to double up for courses that are not their area of specialization or are overburdened with too many courses. Further, LLM candidates are also being forced to teach full courses. This is further hurting the students’ interests and the larger goal of providing world-class legal education.
In early 2012, the student body drew the attention of the Executive Council of NUJS to the plight of the students living in the girls’ hostel, where they were cramped into extremely small spaces without adequate infrastructure. The administration had promised swift remedial measures in the form of construction of additional floors. However, till date nothing has been done and money sanctioned by the UGC has not been put to use.
Dealing with Charges of Sexual Harassment:
In a recent case involving an allegation of sexual harassment by one employee against another, the victim accused the VC of being soft on the complainant, as her repeated verbal complaints were ignored. In her letter to your office and to all EC members, she stated that she had verbally complained 4 times to the VC. This was also documented in a recent media report in India Today (media report available at http://bit.ly/19f9oaK and also annexed as ANNEXURE G) wherein the victim detailed out the difficulties she faced in getting the accused to book. As a head of a national law school teaching gender justice, swift and effective redressal of the dispute should have been the norm.
Non-Responsive To Emails and University Guests:
An annual moot court competition on corporate law sponsored by a prominent international law firm was instituted with the help of several alumni members. However, owing to the shoddy manner in which the partners of this law firm were treated by the Vice Chancellor when they visited NUJS, the budget for this moot was effectively halved. This not only affected the moot court competition but also NUJS’ image in the international law firm circuit where members of the alumni have over the years built a strong and credible reputation. On enquiry, it was learnt that similar instances of shoddy treatment were meted out to different organizations that were keen on offering research projects to NUJS. Many of their emails were not even responded to by the VC. This led to these projects being offered to other national law schools.
Most of the above mentioned information was obtained after a rigorous enquiry by several members of the alumni to ascertain the veracity of the various reports in this regard. It is indeed sad that an institution as reputed as NUJS which attracted some of the best faculty, students and recruiters in the past is fast losing its edge. The perception gaining ground is that other national law schools with dynamic and visionary leaders are fast catching up, while we are losing ground.
Right from its inception, NUJS had always been led by pioneering legal luminaries such as Prof. Madhava Menon and Prof. M.P. Singh. The past Vice Chancellors’ had the required academic vision and capability to attract leading faculty the world over by offering appropriate incentives and creating a stimulating research and teaching environment. Little wonder then that within a short period of 10 years, NUJS rose in prominence to take its place as one of the best law schools in the country today. Unfortunately, it took a mere two years for the current leadership to plunge NUJS into a free fall of decline. This tenure has been marked by an alarming exodus of good quality faculty and a drastic fall in academic standards
It is for these reasons that we humbly request your urgent intervention As a first step, may we please request you to initiate an enquiry into the present situation at NUJS and propose immediate redressal measures.
May we also request you to please appoint a Review Commission under section 14 of the WBNUJS Act, 1999. The Review Commission contemplated under the WBNUJS Act states that such a commission should be set up after every five years by the Chancellor. To the best of our knowledge, no such Review Commission was set up in the more than fourteen years of NUJS’ existence.
Lastly, we request you to please direct the VC to convene a meeting of the Executive Council at the earliest, to examine these matters with the urgency that they deserve.
We are extremely hopeful that being the Chancellor, you will initiate urgent remedial steps to stem this steep decline in quality at an institution widely acknowledged as a leading site of legal education and scholarship.
(On behalf of the below mentioned alumni of NUJS)
Cc: All members of the General Council and the Executive Council
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