Selective Targeting and Discrimination of An OBC Teacher in Central University of Gujarat: Violations of Indian Constitution?

The Constitution of India is the supreme law of the land, which was drafted by a 389-member Constituent Assembly headed by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar during August 1947−January 1950. It sets out not only the governance structure and objectives of governing institutions but also the directive principles, fundamental rights and duties of citizens of India. It assures Indian citizens of justice, equality, liberty, and strives to promote fraternity among them.

As the Indian Constitution assures every citizen a life of dignity, it specifies a Constitutional Schema in which the power of the state and its institution is to be exercised in relation to the fundamental rights of the citizens. These constitutional provisions cover every aspect that a human life with the highest possible dignity can be assured irrespective of the consideration of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. Thus, the applicability of Constitutional Schema to the institutional issues faced by a citizen has never been so relevant and effective as it is today.

Let’s use this Constitutional Schema to analyze the recent issue of suspension of Dr. Jaya Prakash Pradhan, an OBC Associate Professor in Central University of Gujarat (CUG). As the context to the analysis, it is important to keep in mind the following facts: (1) The Article 340 of the Constitution of India calls for the establishment of a Commission to investigate and recommend measures for betterment of the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes; (2) Despite the above constitutional provision, it took about 45 years from the year of enactment of the Constitution for the State to start implementing an affirmative action for OBCs (in the form of 27% reservations in government services) in 1993; (4) The OBC reservations in higher education, specifically in Central Universities, started half-heartedly only after 2008 and also with the OBC faculty appointment being restricted to just the entry level; (5) While the OBC faculty members are visible at Assistant Professor level with extremely low share (e.g., 7.38 per cent share of OBCs in Assistant Professor cadre at Jawaharlal Nehru University in 2012-13), they are having just a token presence at Associate Professor and Professor levels.

In the above context, the suspension of the OBC Associate Professor, Dr. Pradhan is required to be seen and understood. The responses of Dr. Pradhan to various orders issued by the university authorities have clearly established that the order of suspension issued is the culmination of a well-thought-out conspiracy against him planned and implemented at highest levels in the University. The entire exercise of suspending and debarring Dr. Pradhan from entering the University premise, depriving his promotion and Deanship of the School of Social Sciences, and depriving his membership in Executive Council (EC) shows horrifying magnitude of the selective targeting, mental harassment, defamation, discrimination and deprivation being meted out to backward class in higher education.

There are no parallel in the history of India’s higher education on victimization, selective targeting and discrimination than what Dr. Pradhan has undergone. History may fail to furnish any other example on how every possible constitutional provision was consciously violated by the authorities in this case, which are being described as below:

Is an OBC citizen unequal in the Eyes of the Laws?

On the contrary to the Article 14 of the Indian Constitution that the State shall not deny to any person equality before the law within the territory of India, Prof. S. A. Bari, the Vice-Chancellor (VC) and Prof. S. L. Hiremath, Registrar treated the OBC Associate Professor Dr. Pradhan unequally than others who are ‘similarly situated’ to him both with respect to examination related issues and SC students’ complaint.

CUG Examination Practices

After facing discrimination and deprivation in his promotion to professorship, Dr. Pradhan filled a complaint against Prof. Bari on 3rd August 2016. As a retaliatory and motivated action, Prof. Bari through Registrar, Prof. Hiremath, issued a total of 7 notices between 9th August 2016 to 25th October 2016 seeking clarification on compliance with the Code of Conduct Governing Examination for 2014 and 2016 from Dr. Pradhan, and eventually constituted an Inquiry Committee led by Prof. Muttayya Koganurumath on 11th November 2016.

Selective targeting and unequal treatment are clearly established as no enquiries were instituted against other faculty members who were involved in the handling of entrance test question papers and interview for admission, in the very same subject in which their relatives have appeared. Dr. Pradhan, a faculty of Economics, was not involved in the preparation of the entrance test question papers for English in 2014 and Comparative Literature in 2016-17, not scrutinized the same and he has not interviewed the concerned candidates seeking admission. These are the subjects in which Dr. Pradhan’s sister was an applicant for admission.

SC Student Complaint

Prof. Bari misled the EC once again to violate Article 14 of the Indian Constitution when Dr. Pradhan was deprived of his promotion in March 2016 using the pretext of a Scheduled Caste (SC) student complaint. On the contrary, Dr. Sanjeev Kumar Dubey a teacher close to the VC was promoted as a Professor notwithstanding the pending complaint of caste bias and atrocities filed by eight SC students against Dr. Dubey since August 2014.

So, clearly the fundamental right of an OBC faculty to be treated equally with others by a public funded institution like CUG is blatantly denied and the OBC faculty was subjected to selective targeting with extremely vicious intention on the part of the VC Prof. Bari and Registrar Prof. Hiremath.

Depriving an OBC employee of his fundamental right to promotion

Promotion is a fundamental right of the eligible employees guaranteed under Article 16 of the Indian Constitution. No teacher shall be deprived of his promotion merely on the pretext of a complaint by a student on the issue of evaluation of a research work. The conspiracy behind the suspension of OBC Associate Professor Dr. Pradhan is clearly established as just a day before to the EC meeting on 29th March 2016 to endorse his professorship (the Selection Committee has already recommended to this effect), a pending complaint of the student against this OBC teacher was put forth as a reason to stop his promotion. This false complaint of the student was pending since 3rd November 2015 and till 28th March 2016 no inquiry was initiated. Clearly, the EC of the CUG was misled by Prof. Bari to deliberately deprived Dr. Pradhan of his fundamental right to promotion merely based on a pending complaint.

Discrimination because the employee is an OBC?

The Article 15 of the Indian Constitution prohibits discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth. However, all the Associate Professors who come from the general category like Sanjay Kumar Jha, Sanjeev Kumar Dubey, Atanu Bhattacharya, Balaji Ranganathan and Indira Dutta were promoted to professors but the lone OBC Associate Professor was discriminated in his promotion. Every administrative tricks and powers were used to block his promotion so that he could not become the Dean of the School of Social Sciences. It emerges now that the very complaint of the SC student which was used to block Dr. Pradhan’s promotion in 2016 and to conduct a sham inquiry to suspend him in 2017 was unsigned throughout. It is beyond doubt that OBC teacher was discriminated merely on the basis that he comes from a deprived section of the society.

Charged with the violation of non-existent Code of Conduct

The very essence of the Indian Constitution is that it gives a paramount importance to human dignity, equality, freedom and justice in all affairs of the State. The article 20(1) of the Constitution has blessed Indian citizens against the application of ex-post-facto law (i.e. a law not factually in existence at the time commission of the act charged as an offence but enacted subsequently).

Against the doctrine of ex-post-facto law, VC Prof. Bari and Registrar Prof. Hiremath through the Inquiry Committee led by Prof. Muttayya K. charged Dr. Pradhan with the violation of the Code of Conduct Governing Examination in 2014 and 2016. The said Code of Conduct never existed then but was sought to be complied with by Dr. Pradhan alone in August 2016, not by any other faculty members associated with admission process. Despite repeated requests by Dr. Pradhan, the Registrar, CUG has failed to furnish a copy of the Code of Conduct supposedly meant for members of the University Level Admission Committee or University Representative and to indicate the provisions of which Dr. Pradhan is allegedly to have violated.

Successive prosecutions on the same false complaint

The Article 20(2) of the Indian Constitution lays down that no person shall be prosecuted and punished for the same offence more than once. It is important to note that Prof. Bari and Prof. Hiremath have been misusing their official positions to target and discriminate Dr. Pradhan successively for the same false complaint of the student.

Prof. Bari chaired the meetings of the EC to use the pending compliant or fabricated report on the same complaint to undertake the following successive actions: (1) Depriving Dr. Pradhan of his promotion in 2016; (2) Suspending Dr. Pradhan from service in 2017; and (3) Effecting social boycott of Dr. Pradhan by debarring him from entering the University premise to meet his students in 2017. Additionally, Prof. Bari has used the same false complaint of the student to: (4) depriving Dr. Pradhan of Deanship of School of Social Science in 2016; (5) writing to UGC for withdrawal UGC Research Award to Dr. Pradhan; and (6) Depriving Dr. Pradhan of membership of the EC in 2017.

The Conspiracy Theory

The above facts clearly show the astonishing magnitude of personal vendetta, selective targeting and discrimination that were inflicted on the OBC Associate Professor Dr. Pradhan. In his letter to various authorities, Dr. Pradhan has emphasized that VC Prof. Bari has blatantly misused the office of the Vice-Chancellor as well as the resources of the University by directing the entire administration against the former.

The legal opinion obtained by CUG Teachers’ Association has already confirmed that Dr. Pradhan has got discriminated in the University. Prof. Bari has violated the UGC Regulations 2010 by not processing Dr. Pradhan’s first CAS promotion application for more than 1 year and 8 months, and subsequently misled the EC to deprive Dr. Pradhan once again of his promotion based on the second CAS application merely on the pretext of a pending complaint of a student. It is important to note that Prof. Bari did appointed several teachers during 28th April 2014 to 6th January 2016 the period when he ignored the first CAS application of Dr. Pradhan. He even went to the extent of appointing his own wife as a professor. In his complaint letter to the OBC Liaison officer, Dr. Pradhan has specifically stated that “…when the VC not only appoint his wife as a professor on deputation at the same university which he is heading but also chaired the EC meeting to approve her appointment, which is a classic textbook example of conflict of interest characterizing academic leadership in higher education.”

Reportedly University authorities have offered an amicable solution to Dr. Pradhan recently, which is to withdraw his complaints pending against VC and Registrar in lieu of the promise to withdraw all charges against Dr. Pradhan. It lends credence to the conspiracy theory that Dr. Pradhan has been implicated falsely into different charges so that the VC could pressurize Dr. Pradhan to withdraw his genuine complaint on discrimination and grave issues of governance raised against Prof. Bari.

It has been more than a month that Dr. Pradhan is undertaking a sit-in protest in front of the gate of the University and demanding an independent judicial inquiry under the monitoring of the MHRD into all matters involving him. It appears that Dr. Pradhan’s resistance to the VC and Registrar is a resistance to the degradation of academic leadership in higher education of India. The destiny of higher education lies not along fabricated facts and misuse of power to target sincere teachers but with the equality and justice as enshrined in our Constitution.
[Press release by Mahatma Jyotirao Phule & Krantijyoti Savitribai Phule Educational Circle]