By Mushtaq Ahmad Alig, Advocate, Supreme Court of India
It is generally said, and to a great extent correctly, that whenever a new Vice Chancellor (VC) comes to Aligarh Muslim University (AMU), he is warmly welcomed with bouquets all the way from the Aligarh railway station to the VC lodge, but when he departs or is forced to leave the university, bricks follow him from the VC lodge to the railway station or till he vanishes from the sight if leaving by a car. This writer was a student during the tenure of two VCs.
I am a witness to such ugly scenes. It may be recalled that when a new VC reached the Aligarh railway station, his official car which had gone to fetch him was switched off and pushed all the way to his lodge as a mark of reverence. A large crowd had assembled at the station to welcome him. It took about one hour to reach his lodge which is a just 10 minutes drive away. But a little before his tenure, the same VC had to leave the University unceremoniously with all sorts of humiliations and indignations. Why so at the AMU only? The reason is not difficult to explore for those who are acquainted with the internal atmosphere at the AMU. Vested groups, and there are many at the campus, reach the railway station to get proximity with the coming VC in order to use him for their interests in future. But, when they fail to curry favour with the VC or are considered close to him but fail to exploit him for their selfish ends, the same “good” VC overnight becomes “bad”.
There has always been a group there which gains profusely by its nuisance value. Even if they fail to gain, they continue their nefarious designs as they hope to gain with interest when the new VC will descend. The new incumbent “honours” their nuisance value in order to buy peace. There are many pocket boroughs in the university manned by powerful and rich professors, readers, lecturers and non-teaching staff members. It goes to the credit of AMU alone that a number familites have around 50-60 persons from each family working in various capacities in the university. A professor draws a salary of a little less than one lakh a month. Think of the pecuniary benefits this big family derives from the university. I am not talking of their merit and how they are appointed. Such powerful groups very easily manipulate the innocent and gullible students against the V C.
Then, there are some employees who were getting the university contracts and earning crores of rupees in the process. This is the most powerful group whom no VC dare to ignore, and if he does, he shall face all sorts of opposition and this group, in tandem with other vested interests, will try to create a situation where it will be almost well nigh impossible for the new VC to work in peace. These groups have their representatives in the Executive Council (EC), Academic Council (AC) and the Court which is the supreme governing body of the AMU. This group is equipped with both money and muscle. They can easily get a murder or other crime committed at the campus.
In 2007, two murders took place on the campus. Students went on rampage and accompanied by some outside anti-social elements, they barged into the VC lodge, looted the VC’s personal laptop and other valuables, smashed his TV set and other articles and then put the lodge on fire. The photos of the burnt VC lodge were published in local papers at the time. The VC, Prof. PK Abdul Azis, was whisked away before the mob descended and thus his life was saved. He is paying for his radical decisions like giving the building construction work to the CPWD, to provide the AMU with a security system so that no crime takes place and if one takes place, the culprit is apprehended on the spot, giving the control of the University high schools in the hands of the Registrar and diluting the power of the inactive managers of these schools, making the Purchase Committee more democratic and transparent, opening four examination centres elsewhere in India, trying to secure IIT status for the Zakir Hussain College of Engg & Technology and turning the JN Medical College and Hospital into a highly developed state of the art super speciality research centre at par with Delhi’s AIIMS.
These are the groups which did not attend the EC meeting, stopped others from attending the same, shouted and created nuisance outside the meeting hall, and when the VC in his capacity as the Chairman took up the agenda in the adjourned second meeting as per rules, they complained to the Visitor (President of India) through the Union HRD ministry that the said meeting was illegal due to lack of quorum.
THE PRESENT CRISIS
Some vested groups, as indicated above, which maintain a parasitic presence on the AMU campus, complained to the Visitor through the Union Ministry of HRD (during the tenure of Arjun Singh) levelling forty charges.
The Visitor served a notice dated 20 April 2009 addressed to the Registrar u/s 13 of the AMU Act, 1920. The university was ordered to file its reply on or before 5 May 2009. Its request for more time to collect informations from various departments of the university was turned down by the HRD Ministry. From this, it can be fathomed how much influence the vested group enjoy in the HRD Ministry. It is strange to note that all the allegations are levelled against the person of the VC, Prof. PK Abdul Azis, but the HRD Ministry directed the university to file its reply within 15 days, after getting the same approved by the EC. Thus, the reply filed by the university to the show cause notice of the Visitor was passed and approved in a meeting of the EC held on 3 May 2009. The reply was, with much effort, filed before the deadline. One can see the haste of the HRD Ministry that gave only 15 days to the VC to prepare the reply and his request for extension of time was summarily rejected.
The vested interests group had levelled charges of financial irregularities, like claiming excess TA, purchasing new car for VC, expense of Rs 2 crore on the construction/renovation of the burnt VC lodge, paying IT from the university fund, purchasing furniture for VC lodge from Kerala, fooding from University Guest House, providing the Registrar a furnished house, spending crores of rupees on the security of the university, acting against the Act, statute and ordinances of the university, not bringing the AMU Old Boys representatives into the university court, presiding over the meeting without quorum, paying more fees to advocates etc.
This writer, an alumnus of AMU, has gone through each and every allegation and the university’s threadbare reply thereto and has found nothing cognizable.
Prof. PK Abdul Azis assumed the office of VC in June 2007. Before that, he was the VC of the Cochin University.
Since the complainants are vested groups and the complaint is motivated by extraneous considerations, certain professors of the university made counter allegations against these pursuits, indicating their past records and business interests involved in the university.
Here is an example: Mr. Khursheed Ahmad Khan (a member of EC) joined the university as mere Grade-II employee in 1959 and retired as Dy. Finance Officer in 1998. He was placed under suspension from 1983 to 1985. The charges were of gross misconduct. But, somehow he managed to get out of it. He was suspended during the term of Saiyid Hamid. He got university contracts for the last two decades ranging from shoes meant for security staff to building/construction in the university though his son, Mr. Tariq Ahmad Khan who runs a firm by the name and style of “M/s K. T. International” at Badar Bagh, Aligarh. He was also pressurising the VC to privatise the Central Automobile workshop and the university petrol pump so that its contract may be given to his sons. The contracts for uniforms/clothes have been given to the Gandhi Ashram and has made Khursheed Ahmad Khan more hostile to the present VC who wanted to run the university as per rules without aligning himself to any group and going his own neutral way.
Below are extracts of some of the main allegations against the present VC and the replies offered by him after getting them duly approved by the EC. The VC has annexed very important documents in proof of the reply/rebuttal which shows beyond doubt that nothing was irregular. Vouchers and bills indicate the expenses to be reasonable.
Allegation No. 1 to 4: these relate to holding of the special EC meeting on 18 Feb. 2009 on short notice, and instead of discussing only one agenda for which the special meeting was called, the VC, in his capacity as the chairperson of the EC, included six more items on the agenda and the adjourned meeting of 24 Feb. 2009 was held without proper quorum of 15 members.
Reply: The special meeting dated 18 Feb. 2009 was convened by giving sufficient notice on the order of the Ho’nble Allahabad High Court to consider the matter related to the adoption of model guidelines and ordinances concerning re-employment of superannuated teachers. All agenda items were earlier listed and circulated in the agenda of the previous meetings. There are past precedents where more than one agenda was taken up. (The details of such meetings have been given in the reply). The special meeting slated for 18 February 2009 was adjourned due to an artificially created lack of quorum by the complainants themselves. They were available in Aligarh to attend the said meeting but absented themselves and did not allow others to attend the meeting leading to lack of quorum. Similar was the situation in the adjourned meeting held on 24 Feb. 2009. There was no quorum but the VC/Chairman gave his ruling that the present members shall form the quorum for the purpose of this meting. This writer is of the opinion that the transaction of the adjourned meeting was perfectly legal in view of the statutory provision which says, “In due adjourned meeting of the EC, if the quorum is not present within half an hour from the time appointed for holding the meeting, the members present shall be a quorum and proceed with agenda items.” This writer is of the opinion that the lack of quorum in the two meeting was not a natural phenomenon but was engineered with the ulterior motive of frustrating the meeting and demoralise the VC. Audio recordings of two previous EC meetings dated 21 June 2008 and 30 August 2008 have been annexed with the reply to prove that these persons unsuccessfully tried to scuttle the said meetings which was undemocratic and unbecoming of members of the most powerful body of the AMU.
Allegations 5-6: These allegations relate to financial irregularities on the part of the present VC. “Extortionate Travel Expenses” of nearly Rs 5 lakh in one year, like (i) he committed a grave financial irregularity by charging the university TA/DA of Rs 81,654 on his first joining the university as the VC as expenses for four persons, i.e., his wife, two children and himself coming from Kerala, (ii) he got sanctioned Rs 93,053 under Home Travel Concession for sending his family of three persons to Kerala, (iii) visited JMI as Chief Guest of 26th All India ASLI Conference for which he charged fare via Cochin and claimed TA/DA of Rs 64,143 and taxi charges of Rs 12,797 hired in Cochin, (iv) there appears to be no charges for his travel to Thiruvanthapuram, but he has claimed taxi charges of Rs 15000 for local travel there, and (v) “suspicious claim” for travel expense to deliver Key Note Address at a conference organised by Markaz Saqafati Sunniya at Kozhikode, Kerala from 15 to 18 January, 2009 whereas apropos of the news item “No need to amend statute: Aligarh VC” shows him to be on a personal visit to the IUML State President Panakkad Syed Mohammed Ali Shihab Thangal.
Reply: All travel expenses are as per rule (documents annexed). The TA/DA has been justified quoting relevant rules from Swamy’s book. Such TA/DA are admissible only if the transfer is in public interest. Appointment of the VC is in public interest since he was working as VC in the Cochin University of Science and Technology prior to his appointment in the University. Therefore, he and his family are entitled to get transfer TA according to the Rules. The AMU has accorded this facility to all the previous VCs and there was no exception to the present incumbent. Availing HTC is as per rules vide Swamy’s CCS, LTC Rules. The family of the VC has availed the benefit of HTC Scheme during 2007-09 and no violation of any rules had been made. He visited Kochi and Delhi as per office memo dated 18 December 2007. No claims have been made for his visit to Jamia. As per TA Rule II (i), the VC and the PVC may travel by air at their own discretion (relevant rule annexed). He visited Thiruvananthapuram and Cochin as per Office Memo dated 23 October 2008 (annexure-I). Taxi charges were claimed from the airport to Cochin to Thiruvananthapuram. He went to Kozhikode to attend the conference organised by the Markaz which he did attend (see programme sheet Annexure I). He had called on Panicked Mohammed Ali Shihab Thangal at Pannakad on his way from Kochi to Kohzikode. Taxi from Kochi to Markaz was arranged by the Markaz.
Allegation 7: The present VC and the Registrar Prof. VK Abdul Jaleel had their Income Tax for the financial year 2007-08 paid out of the University and from the head of accounts, “Recoveries of Salary”.
Reply: Since both the VC and the Registrar came from the Cochin University and the Shankaracharaya Sanskrit University, Kalady respectively, despite repeated reminders from our university, the said universities sent their form 16 only in April, 2008, which compelled the AMU to pay IT as loan which was recovered from them in the financial year 2008-09 at 7% interest. There was no audit objection. Such precedents are galore vide Annexure K.
Allegation 8: As per rule, the VC is to be provided free furnished accommodation and a car whereas he is enjoying free breakfast, lunch, dinner and other contingent benefits from the University Guest House and his office has four Luxury air conditioned cars in running condition, with the last one a Civic Honda worth Rs 12,31,000 purchased immediately after his joining despite notification for adoption of austerity measures by the UGC and the PM.
Reply: It is asserted that no additional benefits of any kind have been extended to the present VC, whatsoever, which were not extended to the previous VCs for last six decades. Hence, the allegations are totally false. The car used by the VC was damaged by girl students on 11 September 2007 and other cars were 7-years-old. Hence one Segment “B” car (Civic Honda) was purchased. There are past precedents also in this regard. After his joining, the VC transferred two cars to the Central Automobile Workshop for the general use of the university. No such facilities as alleged were made available to the VC by the University Guest House. It is an out right false allegation. The VC office has only two cars, viz., Honda Civic (UP81 X8308) and Ambassador (UP81 R8584).
Allegation 9: The VC lodge was partly damaged in the arson and violence by the students in Sept., 2007. The lodge was insured for Rs 1 crore. The VC without waiting for the insurance claim, spent more than Rs 2 crores, a disproportionate amount, on the renovation, installing central A/c and purchase of furniture worth Rs 50 lakh from Kerala which has virtually turned the VC lodge into a 5-star hotel, despite protests from various bodies.
Reply: When the VC occupied the Lodge initially, he did not request for any renovation. It is wrong to say that the lodge was “partly” damaged. After the murder of a student on the campus, the lodge was completely damaged, laptop etc were looted, building was put on fire (photographs have been annexed with the reply). All this happened in the night of 16-17th Sept., 2007. The VC had no place to live in. Instead, of hiring a suitable residence in the city, the VC had opted to stay within the campus although the situation was very precarious. In the teeth of threat to his life, he opted to share the house where Registrar was living. He stayed in a small facility for nearly one year. The plan of renovation was prepared by the Building Deptt. of the University. The Lodge has been renovated with all modern facilities taking in view the requirement of the next 50 years. Purchases were made by fully observing the Store Purchase Rules. Rs 71 lakh on civil work and Rs 41 lakh on A/c have been spent. Insurance claim is awaited. As soon as it is recovered, it will be credited to the revenue of the AMU. The Central Purchase Committee comprising of some of the present complainants visited many furniture shops and invited quotations which were very high. The rate of the Kerala Firm, namely, TIP TOP, was Rs 3,997,173 whereas the lowest cost of Delhi firm, namely, INDUS was 5,155,522. The Central Purchase Committee unanimously approved the Kerala quotation and furniture worth Rs 39.40 lakh was purchased and not for Rs 50 lakhs as is falsely alleged.
The present VC is living alone in the VC lodge (he has sent away his family to Kerala due to threat perception). The VC lodge is used to house/host dignitaries like former PMs, foreign dignitaries, diplomats, Governors and judges etc where they stay as guests of the VC. Guest House facilities are extended to the VC lodge on such occasions only.
Allegation 10: The VC does not inform the EC about his leave which is against the University rules.
Reply: The VC. has not to date availed any sort of leave.
Allegations 11-12: This pertains to the alleged irregular appointment of the present Registrar of the AMU, Prof. VK Abdul Jaleel. The VC is providing him undue benefits like well-furnished higher category accommodation though he is entitled to unfurnished rented accommodation with 10 percent of the salary as allowance etc.
Reply: The Registrar was appointed on deputation as per statute 5 (3) r/w clause 3(f) of Ordinance. It was reported and approved by the EC on 14 July 2007. All allegations are false. There is no official residence for the Registrar available in the university. He is residing in the PVC lodge maintained by the University Guest House. He has not been paid house rent allowance from the date of living at the said place till date. Previously also, Registrars used to be given furnished accommodation. The Registrar is being paid honorarium of 10 percent of his salary for the additional work assigned to him which is as per rule. Previous Registrars also received such amounts for their additional works.
Allegations 13-14: The VC has spent crores of rupees on the super high security of the university on his personal threat perception. The VC has spent crores of rupees on erecting boundary walls.
Reply: The allegation is false. The security system of the university had to be tightened on the advice of the HRD/Home Ministries. A high power committee consisting of representatives of the MHRD, Home Ministry, UP Police and university officers had finalised the plan. The budget had been approved by the UGC under XI Plan recommendations. The EC held on 21 Sept, 2007 had resolved to establish a foolproof security system in the university and demanded Z category security for the VC. The VC, the Hony. Treasurer (a complainant) and another member of the EC (who is also complainant), met the HRD Minister Mr. Arjun Singh on 24 Sept. 2007 and demanded the deployment of CISF/CRPF or any other central forces on the campus of the AMU to maintain and enforce law and order and provide complete security to the University, provide special armed security cover to the VC at his residence and office as there is threat to his life and provide sufficient budgetary support under XIth Plan. There was another meeting with Special Secretary (IS), Home Ministry, Govt. of India, including DGP (UP Police), DG (CISF), JS (IS), JS (P), JS (MHRD), JD (IB), VC, Registrar and Proctor on 27 Sept. 2007. There was yet another meeting with Shri Arjun Singh, then Union HRD Minister, attended by the VC, Mr. RP Agarwal, Secretary, MHRD, Mr. Sunil Kumar, JS (MHRD) during which the HRD ministry promised to provide full security to the university in a phased manner. Raising of boundary wall is a part of the security system. The AMU was the only university without a proper boundary wall because of its peculiar geography. The proposals for security measures submitted to the UGC were routed through the bodies of the university, i.e., Finance Committee and the EC. Two of the complainants were members of the above authorities. They did not object. Now they are objecting due to an oblique motive. An amount of Rs 292.23 lakh was demanded from the UGC and the same was released for this purpose.
Allegation 15: Despite the existence of a full-fledged Building Department manned by 125 staffers, the allotment of the construction work to the CPWD worth crores of rupees is going unchecked and requires enquiry.
Reply: The practice of awarding work was started to avoid delay in construction projects and corruption in the award of construction. Awarding work to the CPWD is a standard practice. It was done in the interest of the university and was approved by the EC.
Allegation 15 (No. 21 in the original complaint): The VC transferred Rs 8 crores of the PF from the SBI to the Shreyas Grameen Bank, which again was re-transferred to the SBI.
Reply: The rate of interest in the Shreyas Grameen Bank was 10% per annum while in the SBI it was only 8.5%. Hence, the amount was transferred from one bank to another. Subsequently, the interest rate of SBI became 11% per annum and therefore the amount was re-transferred to the SBI. All this was done after approval from the EC.
The present vested interests group is not likely to succeed in its designs as the entire allegations are false, peripheral and trivial. But, if it succeeds, as it has access to political echelons in Delhi and elsewhere, the result will be catastrophic for the university. The current VC, who came to Aligarh with a pledge and dream to do something for the university, will not be in a position to do anything. The next VC, after alighting at the Aligarh railway station, will first pay a visit to the abode of this group and then only go to his lodge. It should be the concern of every citizen of the country, particularly the educated Muslims, not to allow such vested interest groups to hold the university at ransom and blackmail the present VC who received more votes than any other previous VC. If there are problems, they should be solved inside the university institutions. Dirty linen should not be washed in the public.
Genesis of The Allegations
All the allegations are generic in nature. There is no whisper anywhere that in the process any commission/kickback were received. Allegations of TA/DA seem prima facie false. There is no allegation that in construction/renovation of the VC lodge, or in transferring the money from one bank to another, or in spending crores of rupees on the security and the boundary walls of the university, any commission was taken. In view of cold-blooded murders of innocent students, rampant cases of stabbing, stay of local criminals inside hostels, burning of the inside parts of the VC lodge to ashes in the night of 16-17 Sept., 2007, ransacking of the administrative block etc by girl students, damage of Procter’s office, imminent danger to the life of the VC warranted high security on the campus. It is the result of this high security manned by automatic cameras that there is complete peace on the campus at present. Examinations are being held on time. Academic sessions are going on as per schedule. Students are busy in their studies with a full sense of security. A good number of students have made to the Civil Services.
After all, who are the main architects of the complaint under reference? Some of them are known for their notoriety and vested interest. It is this vested interest group which took the contracts of the university for the last two decades but when the same was given to the CPWD, they were up in arms. They want the Central Automobile Workshop and the University Petrol Pump to be privatised so that they may get the contracts. There are vested groups in the university. This is the only university where 95% of the employees and teachers are products of the same university. They study there, get employment there and get a house constructed in the vicinity of the university, then they start all sorts of tricks, pressures, conspiracies and nuisance activity in order to get their sons/daughters/other relatives employed in the university as teaching or non-teaching staff. If the present VC has committed financial or other irregularities, there must be an enquiry. But if the complaint is motivated by personal interest and vendetta, it must be rejected at the threshold and the complanants punished. It is heartening that the Hon’ble Visitor has sent back the complaint to the HRD Ministry. It is hoped that Kapil Sibal, the new Union HRD Minister who himself is a great lawyer and jurist and a messiah of the minorities, will sense the evil design and jettison the frivolous complaint to discourage the vested group and allow the university to blossom and prosper.