Judiciary foils political victimization of rationalist thinker and teacher in India By Kushal Deb 

Dr. Charvak, a rationalist thinker, former journalist and teacher of a central University of Assam, India was terminated in a unique case of political victimization. After the judiciary wanted to verify the proceedings of removing him, administration backtracked and reinstated him immediately.

In line with the attack on the rationalist and secular academia that started with JNU, a permanent faculty member was put out of employment without showing any reason, just on the pretext that his ten year old appointment letter is illegal.  No reason was sited even before the High Court, who had asked for all papers. Instead of facing the High Court, the University backtracked and withdrew the whimsical letter of cancellation of appointment of Dr. Charvak, the Associate Professor who was subjected to this peculiar harassment of ultimate level.

Dr. Charvak, 47, does not use his caste name from his childhood and is a well known rationalist thinker teaching Journalism and Mass Communication in Assam University at Silchar since 2008. Earlier he was a journalist in West Bengal and North East India, having worked for Daily Ganashakti, and then for Doordarshan News and All India Radio News. He was the founder News Editor of Doordaershan Agartala, and also known for his contribution in AIR Itanagar and Kohima. His work as a Field Media Officer in North Bengal had exemplary work in development communication undertaken for decentralization of planning in early 2000 in the name and style of Village Planning by the Villagers in Jalpaiguri district of West Bengal. A former student of eminent economist Professor I. S. Gulati and Professor Thomas Isaac (presently Finance Minister of Kerala), Dr. Charvak has also worked as consultant for authoring public policy papers of UNDP-India twice.

Known for his rationalist outlook that is well known from his usage of name without surname as a token of protest against caste-system, poignant columns sometimes in the local newspapers, he is naturally not typical ‘popular public speaker’ to the saffron brigade. Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) local unit leaders of Assam University, ostensibly led by couple of saffron faculties had long targeted Dr. Charvak along with some other teachers and complained to Ministry of Human Resource Development against him through ABVP national General Secretary Sreehari Borikar. The allegation is that the appointment of Dr. Charvak (and others) was/were illegal.

Without any information or intimation on the allegations or any proceedings at all, suddenly on November 28, 2017, at 4:15 pm Dr. Charvak was served with an order of the University Registrar cancelling his permanent employment of more than nine year four months, which again was in continuation with his earlier stint in the Government service as an officer of Indian Information Service for another nine years nine months. The order claimed his appointment was illegal, but did not mention why. Even after three weeks of issuing the order of cancelling his permanent employment and relieving him from position, the University has failed to disclose why it was illegal even before the Gauhati High Court.

The University however did fail to explain to the Teachers Association why after nine years University suddenly discovered an illegality in his appointment, nor it could even mention what illegality was there or why it was illegal at all.

This unheard of action was taken when the Statute no 28 of Assam University Act passed by the parliament of India specifically forbids such type of removal of any teacher or employee in this undemocratic illegal manner. However, in these days of saffronization of educational institutions, perhaps what ABVP says would be judged as law!

On December 6, Dr. Charvak filed a writ petition before the Gauhati High Court. The High Court in its first judgement on December 8 directed the university to place the proceedings of this case to verify how Dr. Charvak was given any chance in his defence before issuance of his cancellation of appointment. Whereas the University had earlier filed a caveat before the High Court, after the direction it backtracked and instead of placing the proceedings before the High Court, it simply withdrew the order of cancellation of appointment, requesting Dr. Charvak to resume his duties in his department.

Gauhati High Court recorded the mala fide act of the University in the subsequent judgement of December 16, as- “Without going into the aspect as to the justifiability and validity of such order of cancellation of the appointment, it has been brought to the notice of this court that by a subsequent order dated 13.12.2017, the earlier cancellation dated 28.11.2017 has been withdrawn with immediate effect.”

Sabyasachi Chatterjee, advocate on record representing Dr. Charvak, said – “instead of providing justification or validity of their order, Assam University had chosen to withdraw the entire order. This shows their questionable motives. Dr. Charvak is an eminent scholar and reputed Journalist. Only political intolerance to his rationalist positions have been the root cause of this drama.”

The Assam University Teachers Association (AUTA) and Federation of Central University Teachers’ Association (FEDCUTA) protested this sudden removal. FEDCUTA President and General Secretary has said – “This kind of interference in the day-to-day functioning of Central universities by the MHRD at the behest of the student wing of the ruling party has led to much turbulence and turmoil in universities such as Hyderabad Central UniversityCentral University of Haryana etc.”

Employees of Assam University and Students Union also joined in protest against the uncalled for action against Dr. Charvak. The University was wrapped with posters. Assam University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Dilip Chandra Nath was however unavailable to comment on this case.

Dr. Charvak has rejoined his duties on 18 December after the order of Gauhati High Court, and this was widely celebrated in the University and city of Silchar. Assam University Teachers Association however from its general body on December 19, has asked the administration to clarify why Dr. Charvak was harassed, and resolve the issue of all such lists for harassment submitted by ABVP failing which they have threatened to withdraw from all committees except the statutory bodies of the University.

“University may have backtracked for the moment”, said a faculty of Assam University, “but the administration under the saffron brigade will be looking for another opportunity get back on Dr. Charvak or some other faculty. Therefore we are mounting up our resistance to this undemocratic regime. Because after all, the attack on Dr. Charvak is not an isolated one- it is happening throughout the country.”

Heard Mr. S. Chatterjee, learned counsel for the petitioner Mr. A. Chamuah, learned Standing Counsel for UGC and Mr. S. C Keyal, learned ASGI appearing for the respondent authorities in the Union of India.

The petitioner, who was appointed as a Reader (UR) in the department of Mass Communication in the School of Information Science of the Assam University, Silchar is aggrieved by an order dated 28.11.2017, by which the appointment made in favour of the petitioner was cancelled. The said order of cancellation also provides that he was relieved from the University with immediate effect.

Without going into the aspect as to the justifiability and validity of such order of cancellation of the appointment, it has been brought to the notice of this Court that by a subsequent order dated 13.12.2017, the earlier cancellation dated 28.11.2017 has been withdrawn with immediate effect. The order of withdrawal dated 13.12.2017 also provides that the petitioner is requested to resume duty in the department immediately.

In view of such withdrawal of the order of cancellation, no further adjudication is required in this writ petition. However, if the petitioner is aggrieved in any manner, the petitioner has the liberty to take the recourse of the appropriate provisions of law.

In terms of the above, the writ petition stands closed.