Will Challenge Saibaba Sacking, Our Livelihood in Jeopardy: Wife
On 1 April, in a note sent to GN Saibaba’s family, principal Rakesh Kumar Gupta informed the family of his sacking.
Lashing out at the Delhi University for removing scholar-activist GN Saibaba from his assistant professor post, his wife Vasantha Kumari called the exercise “a targeted witch hunt” meant to “mentally torture and harass” them.
Speaking with The Quint, she accused the university of complete absence of transparency regarding the functioning of the college committee looking into the matter of his suspension, and said the family will challenge the termination decision in court.
On Thursday, 1 April, in a note sent to Saibaba’s family, college Principal Rakesh Kumar Gupta wrote, “The services of GN Saibaba, Assistant Professor, Ram Lal Anand College, are terminated with effect from the afternoon of 31st day of March, 2021. Three months’ salary has been paid in his Savings Bank Account.”
Saibaba’s wife said that by terminating his employment, the university has put his family’s livelihood in jeopardy.
“We will challenge the decision in the court as our livelihood has been taken away and we are dependent on him. Without the salary it will be very difficult. We will have to challenge it in Delhi High Court,” Vasantha Kumari told The Quint on Saturday.
Saibaba’s Bail Plea Rejected
Arrested on 9 May 2014 on charges of having Maoist links, Saibaba, who is 90 percent physically disabled and wheelchair-bound, has remained incarcerated in Nagpur Central Jail’s ‘anda cell’ (solitary confinement) since his conviction on 7 March 2017. On 13 February, he had tested positive for COVID-19.
His release, based on medical grounds and deteriorating health condition, has been demanded by his family, several human rights groups, civil society organisations, and international academic associations.
On 25 March, Saibaba’s medical bail plea was rejected by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court. The court had observed that the “offences are serious in nature” as reason for not granting a suspension of sentence.
Saibaba used to teach English at Ram Lal Anand College until his arrest in 2014. A one-member committee was formed by the college to look into the matter of his suspension.
Targeted Harassment & Mental Torture of Saibaba & Family: Saibaba’s Wife
Asked if there has been any communication with the college principal or Delhi University authorities since the termination letter on 1 April, Kumari said there have been no further talks nor any explanation behind this decision. “This has been done to harass and mentally torture his family,” she said.
“There has been no communication from the college since they sent the termination letter. They have gone quiet after sending the letter. What will the principal say? All he will say is that the decision has been taken,” she told The Quint.
Importantly, Saibaba’s family claims that there is legal precedence in SAR Geelani’s case that a professor cannot be fired while a case is still being heard.
“The appeal is still pending in court and no action can be taken while a case is still sub judice. We have approached the university along with DUTA and spoken about this in the past,” Vasantha Kumari told The Quint.
Pointing out that Saibaba’s family is dependent on his teaching salary, she further said, “We have submitted to the authorities that the family is dependent on Saibaba, that I am a homemaker, our daughter is still studying. We also cited the example of SAR Geelani in our letter in 2019.”
Former DU professor SAR Geelani was convicted and then acquitted in the 2001 Parliament attack case. “He was merely suspended despite his arrest in the Parliament Attack case and his employment remained under suspension despite conviction in the trial court,” Kumari had told Hindustan Times.
Will Challenge Termination in Court, Says Wife
Speaking over the phone, Kumari said, “We were getting half the salary all this while and now even that has been jeopardised by his termination.”
She said the family will challenge the decision in the court as their livelihood has been taken away. “Without the salary it will be very difficult. We will have to challenge it in Delhi High Court,” she said.
She added that DU and Ram Lal Anand College teachers have appealed to the university on many occasions to not take any action while the appeal is pending but no heed has been paid to their requests.
“But the acting VC has taken this step. I don’t know if an acting VC take such a step. This is a deliberate step to pile on pressure,” she said.
Asked if she plans to speak directly to the college, she stated, “No one takes our calls at the college. What will we talk to them on?”
‘No Transparency at All in DU Committee’s Investigation’
Slamming the college for sending “memorandum upon memorandum” for allegedly arbitrary issues, she said it has refused to share information on the one-member committee appointed to examine the case.
“All they [the college] have done is send us memorandum after memorandum and ask for our replies. We have responded and asked for no action to be taken till the COVID-19 pandemic subsides as it is difficult to speak with Saibaba in this period. Despite all this they did not wait and took this decision.”Vasantha Kumari, GN Saibaba’s wife
Kumari alleged that there was no transparency in the appointment of the committee, its proceedings, or decisions. “If a committee has been formed then information about its members, meetings, sittings, discussions, decisions have to be shared with us. They never shared anything with us about the committee’s minutes of meetings despite requesting for it,” she added.
She wryly observed, “For any other work the college always cites COVID as an excuse to evade accountability regarding education, jobs, and other things. However, for repression and witch hunt activities there is no COVID. This is a targeted witch hunt.”
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