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Published in the 16-28 Feb 2005 print edition of MG; send me the print edition

REJOINDERS

Whither AMU?

The Milli Gazette Online

The AMU Amendment Act of 1981 declared the university court as the supreme governing body of the university and is accordingly empowered under section 23 of the Act to formulate legislations and frame major policies in consultation with other authorities of the university, faculties, AC, EC and FC (of course with the concurrence of the Govt. of India) about the functioning of the University. As such, no policy can be framed without taking the court into confidence (including the matters which are governed by ordinances like admissions and service conditions of teachers and non-teachers etc.). 

The Court is even empowered to serve as an appellant body, for internal remedy, to review the decisions of the authorities like AC and EC.

The court is thus heavily loaded with responsibilities and extraordinary powers, its membership is accordingly taken care of, by drawing eminent persons from all walks of public life and ensuring adequate representation to the Muslim community, for obvious reasons, through the process of election. The present membership as always, confirms the distinctive and representative character of the august body Justice Ahmadi, (Chancellor), Justice Saghir Ahmad, Justices Sardar Ai Khan and Shamim Ahmad, former Chairmen Minority Commission, Syed Shahabuddin, Salman Haider, Zafaryab Jilani are those who attended the December meeting which is referred below and several others, including MPs, religious scholars, representatives of teachers, students, non-teachers and donors etc. 

Readers would be surprised to know that from the day the Amendment Act of 1981 was implemented, the Court, in spite of the fore-mentioned powers and provisions enshrined in the Act, and expressed aspiration of the Millat, has not been allowed to play its pivotal role in the affairs of the university which at the same time has kept the Muslim community away from the functioning of the institution established by them (definition of the University, vide Section 1 (L). 
In the process, the Court has lost its authority and effectiveness and is now reduced to a defunct, vestigial and powerless instrument of the cherished minority institution, by the very people who were its custodians and who have publicly championed the cause of the university and the community.

This is undoubtedly a very serious matter and the situation calls for introspection and deliberations amongst those who have the interest of the alma-mater at heart. However, for the moment, the specific issue which has attracted attention is the meeting of the Court held in December 2004, after a gap of several months, by deliberately skipping the mandatory annual meeting due in October. This meeting was presided over by two persons at the same time, i.e. concurrently by the Chancellor Justice Ahmadi and the Vice-Chancellor, Naseem Ahmad.

The relevant Statute 1 (3) states "The Chancellor shall, if present preside over the meetings of the Court," while Statute 3(1) states that the Vice-Chancellor shall be the ex-officio chairman of the court, academic and executive councils etc.

The two conflicting provisions in the statutes were the result of an oversight. The Amendment Act of 1981 introduced the provision 1 (3) which made way for the chancellor to chair the meeting. This obviously warranted the deletion of the portion of the statute 3(1) which was somehow lost sight of and it continues to exist in the statute. But of no consequences as in the last 22 years the Chancellor continued to preside over the meetings of the court and no controversy was ever raised. Therefore, exploiting this apparent oversight now, for a fringe benefit and without giving opportunity to the concerned functionary and the participating members of the court to think and examine the issue beforehand, is unbecoming and objectionable. 

Making mockery of the bodies and the rules of the university has been a fashion with the rulers on the campus in recent past.

The counter argument that the meeting was presided over by the Chancellor (who merely decorated the podium) and was chaired by the Vice-Chancellor as per rules, and who conducted the business of the meeting and held the show, is childish. The president or the chairman of a meeting is the same thing according to language and known parliamentary practices.

Moreover, since the Chancellor has been declared as the head of the institution and the VC being only the salaried principal officer, it is only fair that the Chancellor should have been given precedence.

It is disappointing that with a galaxy of members participating, the court failed to resolve the simple issue during the meeting itself, totally unmindful of its fallout. It is learnt that members did contest the anomaly but they were not sufficiently equipped with the legal background and the past history.

It is equally disturbing as to what were the compelling reasons before Justice Ahmadi to succumb to the apparent anomaly. All he could observe was the admission that the situation was unconventional. But this was not enough and the matter should have not been left at that. Such a casual approach shall undoubtedly further encourage flouting of rules and autocratic style of functioning, of which the institution has been a victim for the last several years. The rule of law has actually ceased to exist. Under such challenging conditions, the present event assumes extra-ordinary significance and warranted firm and determined response.

The situation, obviously demands a rearguard action which may lead to declaring the meeting of the Court null and void, in order to uphold the rule of law. It is time, well-wishers of the institution and those conversant with the intricacies of law, to intervene and save the day for the premier national minority institution. Let this be the turning point, in order to restore the desired rule of law and democratic polity. Failing this, there would not be any place to go for us.

Kr. Hashmat Ali Khan, Advocate, Aligarh

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