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Jamia Admin Draws Sharp Criticism from Teachers’ Bodies Over Professor’s Suspension

The administration on Thursday issued orders suspending Sonya Surabhi Gupta and dissolving present Jamia Teachers Association.
Gulistan-e-Ghalib which has the statue of Mirza Ghalib

Gulistan-e-Ghalib which has the statue of Mirza Ghalib. Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons

New Delhi: Jamia Millia Islamia (JMI) on Thursday suspended a professor for “unlawfully” taking up an assignment to conduct the teachers’ association election without taking permission from the competent authority.

While suspending Sonya Surabhi Gupta, whom the executive committee of the Jamia Teacher’s Association (JTA) had appointed as the Returning Officer (RO) to conduct the elections, the administration also stated that the constitution of JTA had not been approved “by the Competent Body”.

As reported by the Press Trust of India (PTI), a separate office order issued by Registrar Nazim Jafri on Thursday, also stated a Dean of Faculties meeting held on November 11, authorised the Vice-Chancellor to constitute a committee “to look into the shortcomings of the Bye-Laws/Constitution of the JTA and submit a report within a period of one month so that notification of transparent and smooth conduct of election of JTA can be made at the earliest after following due process”.

The office order stated that it was decided to dissolve the present Jamia Teachers Association and declared the election notification — issued with Gupta’s signature — “as null and void”.

According to a report in the Indian Express, Majid Jamil, who has been president of JTA since 2020, said that the notices “are totally illegal”.

Everything has been carried out as per past practice and in accordance with the JTA constitution. The term of the present association is going to end on November 25. As per our constitution, the executive committee appointed an RO. The RO announced the election schedule, nominations were filed and the election was to take place on November 23. In the meanwhile, the administration asked why permissions have not been taken from them but it is not required. JTA is a 58-year-old organisation and we followed the same practice that has been in place in past years. The Jamia administration has no role in JTA activities. This is an attempt to abolish our democratic right,” he said.

In its office memo suspending Gupta, the administration notes that in response to its show cause notice, Gupta had stated that ROs had not sought permission in previous elections either. The memo states that the argument “is not sustainable because if some illegal act has happened in the past, the Administration is not bound to carry the same in perpetuity.”

The suspension memo also cited clauses from the Agreement of Service for Jamia Teachers and from the UGC’s 2018 regulations to state that Gupta has engaged in “grievous misconduct”. However, Gupta has rejected all the allegations levelled against her, saying that she has not done anything unlawful.

Teachers’ Bodies Condemn Jamia Admin

Following this, JTA expressed deep anguish and pain, and strongly condemned both communications of the JMI administration. JTA resolved that its term is very much legal as per the JTA constitution and the term certificates issued by the last Returning Officer are for two years completing on the 25th of November 2022. The press release by JTA also stated that it started the process of election in due course of time to elect the next JTA EC. 

The teachers’ association further termed it a deliberate and systematic attempt of the JMI administration to derail the democratic process of the JTA election of choosing their representative who could raise the voice of teachers in front of the administration.

The Federation of Central Universities Teachers' Associations (FEDCUTA) and Democratic Teacher’s Front (DTA) also released Press statements condemning the suspension of Prof. Gupta and the dissolution of the JTA. They have demanded the immediate withdrawal of these office orders and have called upon teachers across the country to stand up for teachers' rights to form associations independent of administrative control. 

The DTF in its press release, said, “This is nothing but an administrative overreach and an assault on the democratic rights of teachers and other employees to form their own associations. Administrations have no right to determine the constitution of employees' associations or on matters of conduct of elections. This is purely the prerogative of the JTA GBM.”

The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teacher’s Association (JNUTA) also released a statement condemning the same. JNUTA termed the suspension of Prof Gupta as unlawful and the dissolution of the JTA executive- illegal. JNUTA believes it was a naked attempt at a ‘coup of the teachers’ movement by the Jamia administration. “The sole and highest decision-making body of the JTA is its General Body, and no university administration has the legal right to seek to tamper with its deliberations or resolutions. Be it to tamper with a free and fair election process or a more insidious attempt to silence critical questioning and dissent in the movement, the impact of this authoritarian trampling of democracy shall by no means be restricted to just Jamia alone, as it is in keeping with the New Education Policy’s initiative to vest the office of the Vice Chancellor with overweening power,” the statement read. 

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