New Delhi: The three-member search-cum-selection committee for the appointment of a new Chairman of the University Grants Commission (UGC) is inching towards finalizing the names of the top contenders for the coveted post, currently held by acting Chairman Prof Ved Prakash since February 2011.
Prof Ved Prakash had taken over from Prof Sukhadeo Thorat, whose term as UGC Chairman ended on February 6, 2011. Prior to joining UGC as Acting Chairman, Prof Prakash was Vice Chairman of the Commission since May 2009. He also served the UGC as Secretary from 2002 to 2005.
According to reports, five academicians have been short-listed for the post of UGC Chairman.They are Prof Ved Prakash Acting Chairman, Prof Syed E Hasnain former VC of Hyderabad University, Prof Surabhi Banerjee VC Central University Orissa, Prof Pankaj Chandra Director IIM Bangalore and Prof A jaikrishnan, V-C of the University of Kerala, Thiruvananthapuram.
The committee consisting of Madhava Menon and Goverdhan Mehta (both academicians) and Srinath Reddy, President of the Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) will now hold interaction with each of them before sending a list of three names to the HRD Ministry later this month.
But shortlisting a panel of three by the search committee from the five top contenders is proving a daunting task for it for many reasons.
While Banerjee is the official biographer of the late Left leader Jyoti Basu, her appointment as Pro V-C of Calcutta University had earlier run into trouble. She currently heads the new Central University in Orissa.
Prof Hasnain has been a contender for the top jobs at Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University last year.
Prof Chandra, a visiting professor at a host of international varsities, has a number of publications to his credit and is also on the board of several firms and institutions.
The search committee has now sought an appointment with the Human Resources Development (HRD) Minister Kapil Sibal to seek some “unnecessary’’ clarifications regarding eligibility criteria of candidates in general and the age clause in particular.
Sources said that the reason for seeking clarification was that some candidates in the age range of 62-64 years also figured in the zone of consideration. The UGC Act, significantly, stipulates that the office of the UGC chairman shall be whole time and he/she shall “hold office for a term of five years or until he attains the age of 65 years, whichever is earlier’’.
Accordingly, the UGC chairman has to be appointed on a whole time basis and for the full term. The provision does not allow for interpretation knowingly or deliberately that a person could be appointed Chairman for a period, which will not be one term of five years.
The appointment is, therefore, to be guided in that the identified incumbent should be able to serve five years in office and without exceeding the age of superannuation — 65 years. The stipulation in the advertisement given by the HRD ministry on this subject mentioned, “…nominees should be preferably below the age of 60 years’’. This appears to have also been guided by this principle.
Non-adherence to this provision will tantamount to violation of the relevant stipulation in the UGC.
Curtailment of full term due to an intervening factor such as superannuation or some unforeseen reasons of exit from the position would be an exception and not a rule.
The HRD Ministry’s decision in the appointment of Prof SS Mantha as the Chairman, All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), made nearly a fortnight ago, supports the principle cited for the position of the UGC chairman.
The AICTE Chairman has been appointed for a full term of three years (as per the provision of the AICTE Act) by the ministry notwithstanding the introduction of the legislation about the National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) in Parliament.
HRD Ministry initiated the process of looking for a chairperson after its hopes of an early establishment of the proposed of National Commission for Higher Education and Research (NCHER) remained unfulfilled with the Bill awaiting Cabinet clearance.
The Bill proposes to take over all existing regulatory bodies, including the UGC and the All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE).
The Ministry delayed the search process after Professor Sukhadeo Thorat’s term ended in February as it intended to introduce the NCHER Bill, 2011 in Parliament during the Budget session, but could not do so because of the ongoing turf war between the HRD Ministry and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on the jurisdiction of medical education.