On Monday, the Delhi High Court stayed Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) circular making it mandatory for the faculty to mark attendance. According to this circular, faculty failing to mark attendance will not be granted leaves, and their proposals to attend conferences and seminars abroad will not be entertained by the administration.
The court stayed this circular while acting on a plea filed by Professor Archana Prasad. Justice Suresh Kait sought JNU’s response to the plea challenging the circular, and listed the matter for further hearing on May 3, 2019.
The petitioner, Prof. Prasad is a professor at the Centre of Informal Sector and Labour Studies, JNU. She was supposed to participate in a conference in South Africa in December 2018, and had applied for leave on October 9. However, her request was denied by the administration citing the circular that was released on November 13. She again requested for leave from January 20 to 27, which was denied on the ground that she was “not following attendance rules”.
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Following this, she filed a writ petition challenging the circular released by the administration. Talking to Newsclick, Prof. Prasad’s lawyer Maanav Kumar said that an appeal had been made in the court to stay the November 13 circular. He said that Prof. Prasad has requested for leave for an important educational purpose, and cannot be denied on the basis of mandatory attendance rules.
Earlier this month, Prof. Kavita Singh, the dean of the School of Arts and Aesthetics, JNU, won the Infosys award, and was invited to receive it in Bangalore on the evening of January 5. In her acceptance speech, Prof. Singh said, “I have to thank JNU, an institution that until a few years back was a great place for researchers to continue their work unbridled and free. But things are bad now. How bad? When I checked my email this morning, I found that the leave that I had applied for receiving this award had been rejected by the vice chancellor. My presence here is illegitimate.”
The faculty at JNU had been fighting a long-drawn battle against the mandatory attendance policy being imposed by Vice Chancellor Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar. The students and teachers of the university have time and again demanded resignation of the VC over misgovernance.
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In recent past, 49 Members of Parliament, from both Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha had also written a letter to Prakash Javadekar, the minister for human resource development, raising concerns about the current state of affairs in the university and seeking urgent intervention from the minister to save the university from “being destroyed by its current Vice Chancellor”.
Prof. Prasad told Newsclick that this stay order is a big win for all faculty members of JNU. She said that ever since the release of this notification, the administration had not been cooperating with the faculty, and as a result, several professors of the university had not been able to complete their research papers. She also said that the administration has been spreading lies saying that mandatory attendance marking is a part of University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines. She said that the UGC has no such rule.