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St. Stephen's Row Escalates, Nandita Narain Issued Warning by Principal

College governing body member and former DUTA chief had protested ‘unilateral announcement’ by principal on revised admission guidelines.
Nandita Narain

Image courtesy: Al Jazeera

New Delhi: The row over the decision of St Stephen's College Principal John Varghese to include a member of the Supreme Council in the interview panel for selection of students for admission escalated on Tuesday with the college issuing a "formal warning" to a member of the Governing Body who had protested the decision.

In a letter to Nandita Narain, who on Monday issued a press release signed by three teachers of the college, Varghese said she had issued "false and irresponsible" comments to the media concerning the revised admission guidelines passed by the Supreme Council of St Stephen's College.

"I wish to bring to your notice that what you falsely claimed as the decision of the principal is in fact the decision of the Supreme Council which has the sole power to decide on the admission policy as the college is a Christian minority institution," Varghese said.

He said guidelines were duly reported in the governing body held on March 14, 2019 in the presence of the teachers' representatives.

The letter, a formal letter of warning, said Narain had "deliberately" chosen to "ignore the facts".

It said the press release was "complete concoction, factually and legally incorrect", and against the code of professional ethics and ethos of the institution.

"You may take this letter as a formal warning issued to you. You are advised not to repeat such irresponsible and unbecoming behaviour in future failing which the college will be forced to take appropriate action against you," the letter said.

The members of the Governing Body of the college had on Monday accused Varghese of taking an "illegal decision" to include a member of the Supreme Council in the interview panel for selection of students for admission to the college and sought withdrawal of the decision.

The Supreme Council is a subset of six members of the Governing Body (managing committee) who are all members of the Church of North India (CNI).

In the release issued by Narain, Associate Professor in the department of mathematics, the members said that Varghese made the shocking announcement of including a member of the Supreme Council in the interview panel at a meeting of the college staff council.

The Chairperson of both the Supreme Council and the Governing Body is the Bishop of Delhi, and the Principal is the Member Secretary of both the bodies. 

The release said the decision was in violation of the college constitution which categorically stipulates that the Supreme Council shall have no jurisdiction in the administration of the college.

"Never in the history of the college has a non-academic person from outside the college faculty been a member of the admission process," the release said.

The Governing Body members also said that no such decision had been announced by Varghese in its meeting held on March 14. 

They said the Principal had made this unilateral announcement in the Staff Council and he had acted in violation of powers. 

The release said the undersigned teachers "strongly condemn the illegal and unacademic decision taken by the Principal that could compromise the academic integrity of our admission process, and demand that it is withdrawn."

It is understood that a decision has also been taken that cut-offs for interviews could be dropped up to 25% for those belonging to CNI Delhi diocese -- which manages the college -- compared with the general category students.

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