New Delhi: The Delhi High Court Wednesday stayed the inquiry initiated by Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) against its 45 faculty members for allegedly participating in a protest march in July last year.
Justice Suresh Kait sought response of the JNU administration on the plea by the teachers challenging the charge sheets issued by the varsity against 48 faculty members for allegedly taking part in the strike/protest.
The court listed the matter on October 10 for further hearing. The teachers, represented through senior advocate Kapil Sibal, said they had sent individual responses to the show cause notices stating that no misconduct or violation of rules had taken place, as alleged by the varsity.
The petition, filed by 45 faculty members, said the charge sheets issued against them relied on three grounds to implicate them in the alleged "mala fide inquiry".
One of the grounds was that the CCS (Conduct) Rules prohibit government servants from resorting to or abetting strikes, coercion or physical duress in matters pertaining to service.
The petition, filed through advocates Abhik Chimni, Maanav Kumar and Nupur, also referred to a direction of the high court in its August 9, 2017 order which placed certain restrictions on locations of strikes / protests being organised by students.
It said the petitioners and JNU teachers in general are not governed by the CCS (Conduct) Rules. It said the JNU Teachers' Association (JNUTA), through its General Body Meeting held on July 24, 2018, had proposed to organise a protest on July 31, 2018.
On July 30, 2018, JNUTA issued a letter to the Vice Chancellor of the university stating that it had tried to raise several genuine issues of concern and decisions taken by JNU including repeated violations of the JNU Act, Statutes and Ordinances, autonomy, teachers' biometric attendance, online examination, IPR policy, proposed HEFA loan.
However, despite its best efforts there had been no response, dialogue or communication whatsoever from the authorities and in light of this, the teachers organised the protest march on July 31, last year, it said.
"In addition to the fact that the petitioners are not governed by the CCS (Conduct) Rules, it is submitted that the very application of these rules and its accompanying penalties is highly prejudicial to them.
"If they are subjected to the present enquiry under the CCS (Conduct) Rules, there will be a grave risk of the respondents (authorities) taking coercive steps against them including placing the petitioners under suspension during the pendency of the enquiry; reducing the pay-scale, grade or their post to a lower stage for a specified period.... compulsorily retirement, removal or dismissal from service," the petition said.
It added that the teachers will suffer severe harm, both during the pendency of this process and as a result of the final penalties that may be imposed on them. The plea has arrayed JNU, its vice chancellor and registrar as parties in the case.