Why Did President Kovind Suspend Delhi University VC Yogesh Tyagi?

Kovind also initiated a probe into allegations of dereliction of duty and lack of commitment against Tyagi.

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The Union Ministry of Education on Wednesday, 28 October, stated that Delhi University Vice Chancellor Yogesh Tyagi was suspended by President Ram Nath Kovind, who also initiated a probe into allegations of dereliction of duty and lack of commitment which have been levelled against Professor Tyagi.

But what are the grounds of this suspension? What is the controversy around the Delhi University top brass?

The roots of the leadership crisis at Delhi University lie in Vice Chancellor Tyagi’s attempts at appointing a new Registrar and a Pro Vice Chancellor when he was on leave – a period during which Pro Vice Chancellor PC Joshi was in charge.

What are the allegations against VC Tyagi?

According to the Ministry of Education, Professor Tyagi, who had been appointed in February 2016, had failed to discharge his duties and responsibilities as the Vice Chancellor of the university. This included appointments to several key posts, which were left vacant for a long time.

  • The post of Pro Vice Chancellor, who assists the VC and performs the latter’s functions in his absence, was vacant from June 2016 to June 2020 and was filled after “great pursuance by the Administrative Ministry.”
  • The post of Registrar was vacant from March to October 2020.
  • DU has had no Controller of Examinations since 2016.
  • Finance Officer and Treasurer’s post has been vacant since March 2020.
  • Posts like the Dean of Colleges, Director of South Campus and College Principals have been vacant.

What are DU Professors making of this?

AK Bhagi, President of the RSS-backed National Democratic Teachers’ Front, said that throughout his stint, VC Tyagi had failed to take important decisions and that the controversy should not be seen as fight for power within the body.

“He had stalled processes, be it permanent appointments or promotions or other issues. He didn’t fill statutory bodies in time and delayed elections, all of which were duly informed by us to the ministry. He didn’t fill teacher vacancies and would employ stop-gap measures.”
AK Bhagi, President, Nation Democratic Teachers Front

While Delhi University Professor and DUTA member Abha Dev Habib too agreed that VC Tyagi was known for inaction on a host of issues that had an adverse impact on the huge university, she did question why the ministry had acted so late when it was aware of these administrative lapses.

Another Delhi University professor, who did not wish to be named, said that apart from exposing the overriding power of the Centre, the recent developments also beg the question of why VC Tyagi did not act on appointments.

“We have heard that he was not happy with new appointments being made. However, why did he not fill these permanent posts before? Was he and the ministry not on the same page when it came to crucial appointments?”
Delhi University Professor

Are there any other grounds on which Tyagi was suspended?

Apart from protests by ad-hoc teachers, the ministry said that there was a delay in filling up vacant teaching positions at the university. “Though timelines were drawn up by the university, only a few posts were filled up on regular basis.”

Moreover, several vigilance and sexual harassment cases in the university are pending for more than two years. Apart from violating provisions, the ministry said that such an attitude showed “insensitivity on the part of the Vice Chancellor.”


What is the controversy around appointments in DU?

In June 2020, Vice Chancellor Tyagi was admitted to AIIMS Delhi for an emergency surgery and hasn’t returned to office since – an absence for which he neither sought official permission or informed the university’s Executive Council, says MoE.

According to the MoE, an Executive Council meeting was scheduled on 10 October, during which appointments to the Registrar and other vacant posts were to be discussed. However, this meeting, MoE says, was postponed after VC Tyagi verbally said that he would join after 10 days.

“On 21 October, just before the Executive council meeting, Prof Tyagi appointed PC Jha as Interim Registrar while remaining in absence. Prof Jha tried to disrupt the ongoing Executive Council meeting. However, this was not allowed as the EC resolved that Prof Suman Kundu would continue as Director and Acting Registrar till permanent Registrar joins.”
Statement from the Ministry of Education

Professor Tyagi then went on to appoint Dr Geeta Bhatt as Pro Vice Chancellor, who issued an order revoking appointments by Joshi.

What is the power struggle about?

But the real power struggle does not lie in appointments made to the office of the Registrar, as is being presented, says an Academic Council member who did not wish to be named.

“Rather, the tussle lies in who gets to have a greater say and thereby controls the academic council, which in turn nominates two members to the search committee for Vice Chancellor.”

These two members are usually from outside DU and have expertise in the world of academic and administration and are joined by a third member nominated by the Ministry of Education, who chairs the committee.

Who’s in charge at DU now?

President Kovind, in his capacity as the Visitor of the University, suspended VC Tyagi until further orders as he may “influence or coerce the witnesses and tamper with the material records of the university so as to ensure fair inquiry.”

Hence, all orders issued by Tyagi ever since Pro Vice Chancellor PC Joshi stepped into the shoes of VC on 17 July have been set aside and are to be “treated as null and void.”

This means that both the appointment of Jha as Registrar and of Dr Bhatt as Pro Vice Chancellor, as made by VC Tyagi in absence, will not be valid.

Hence, as mentioned in statutes, the function of Vice Chancellor Tyagi will be performed by Pro Vice Chancellor PC Joshi during the period through which Tyagi remains suspended.

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