On October 5 2018, the Vice Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, M. Jagadesh Kumar, in the 147th academic council meeting, decided to implement the Central Civil Services Conduct Rules as per the University Grants Commission regulations, for all faculty members. These rules were apparently supposed to guide the ‘conduct’ and ‘service’ for teachers and staff based on the government’s regulations. This decision did not go down well with the faculty of JNU, as part of their profession entails exercising views and opinions.
“The 147th Academic Council was crucial since it had to consider the adoption of new Ordinances related to the new UGC Regulations into which the Administration had inserted clauses making CCS rules applicable to teachers at JNU. Several members pointed out that the draft ordinances were circulated without giving any time for discussion by the faculty of the university in the different Centres and Schools and they should not be adopted without detailed discussion at all levels,” the JNUTA statement said.
The following rules (CCS Conduct Rules 1964 (amended 2014) pg. 6-8) affects the teachers:
5. Taking Part in Politics and Elections
(1) No Government servant shall be a member of, or be otherwise associated with, any political party or any organisation which takes part in politics nor shall he take part in, subscribe in aid of, or assist in any other manner, any political movement or activity.
(4) No Government servant shall canvass or otherwise interfere with, or use his influence in connection with or take part in an election to any legislature or local authority:
(ii) resort to or in any way abet any form of strike or coercion or physical duress in connection with any matter pertaining to his service or the service of any other Government servant.
8. Connection With Press Or Other Media
(1) No Government servant shall, except with the previous sanction of the Government, own wholly or in part, or conduct or participate in the editing or management of, any newspaper or other periodical publication or electronic media.
9. Criticism of Government
No Government servant shall, in any radio broadcast, telecast through any electronic media or in any document published in his own name or anonymously, pseudonymously or in the name of any other person or in any communication to the press or in any public utterance, make any statement of fact or opinion –
(i) Which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the Central Government or a State Government:
(ii) Which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the Central Government and the Government of any State; or
(iii) Which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the Central Government and the Government of any foreign State.
In the backdrop of the prevailing issues of conflict between the VC and JNU’s academic community, which has lasted for over two years now, this was an even bigger issue as it took away the space for dissent. Open academic debates in public and the right to criticize administrative policies and problems may also be curtailed.
“Obviously, the university rules are silent on most issues, and therefore the CCS rules could have been used for disciplinary action against any teacher on any ground in a selective manner”, said Saugata Bhaduri, who spoke to Youth Ki Awaaz about these rules and the havoc they would wreak.
These rules are essentially for civil servants, as the name suggests. They impose restrictions on a government servant with regard to their participation in any political matter or work related strikes and also, to publish anything without permission from the government. Furthermore, they are not allowed to speak to the press, even under a pseudonym, and if permitted, they are to take due care to not give opinions that go against the government or its policies. An essential part in the field of academics is the availability of free spaces to express opinions, and that is what these rules seek to suppress.
“Academics are the vanguards of social criticality, and it is their responsibility to raise their voice in the case of wrongdoings, and influence public political opinion. Needless to say, many stalwart politicians, including several with the current ruling party, are academics, and none of this would be legal any more if the CCS rules are imposed for teachers”, added Bhaduri.
As per a statement released by the JNU Teachers Association, the new set of UGC rules were passed by the administrative committee without discussing the same with the faculty. To add to their woes, these rules were put across to them without any prior consultation. Generally, the matters of a meeting are first circulated among all members and are then discussed and debated upon in the council.
“Under these rules, economics professors can be punished for discussing economic policy; political scientists can be punished for discussing politics; environmental science professors can be punished for discussing environmental policy; scientists can be punished for discussing government science policy etc. All educationists can be punished for expressing their views on educational policy. The very role that academics are supposed to play in the classroom and in civil society, has become criminalized,” said Ranjani Mazumdar, who teaches at the School of Arts and Aesthetics (SAA) in JNU.
The JNU Teachers Association is of the opinion that the VC has been finding ‘high-handed’ ways of passing and legitimising decisions.
“The JNUTA strongly denounces the vice-chancellor and the JNU administration for once again repeating the practice of treating the Academic Council of the Jawaharlal Nehru University as a rubber stamp to approve decisions already taken by them,” the statement said. They also stated that the dean of the SAA and JNUTA secretary were not allowed to enter into the AC meeting on “specious” grounds.
They went on to say that, when the VC brought the new UGC rules at the meeting, some faculty members specified how the CCS rules were not to be part of the new regulations. To this matter, the VC responded, “the UGC instructions mandated the adoption of CCS rules but refused to produce any document in support of this assertion.”
The teachers association also tried to bring out further issues that they were facing in the University. They demanded that the matter be further discussed and contemplated on in the university, as it went against certain fundamental principles of education. The VC ‘rebuffed’ all these suggestions and went ahead to pass these regulations, provisionally.
The JNUTA tried to put across the ‘issue of vacant seats in M.Phil and Ph.D programmes’ but, the VC refused. As per the recent Delhi High Court Order, the JNU administration was asked to fill up the vacant seats. On this matter the JNUTA statement said, “Even earlier at the very beginning of the meeting, the JNUTA president tried to raise the issue of procedural irregularities as a point of order and some other members too raised their hands in support. The Vice-Chancellor rejected this request and moved on to the agenda. No discussion was even allowed on the minutes of the previous meeting that were to be confirmed,” the JNUTA statement said.
They brought their concern up with the registrar of the university. The association’s statement on the same was,
“The JNUTA would like to point out that CCS (conduct) rules are applied to administrative officers in the government, their extension to universities like JNU will take away the social use of the university. A university produces new knowledge and teaches it. But to do so, it needs independence of thinking and the freedom to dissent and act on that dissent. The CCS rules will remove these freedoms.”
Additionally, the statement also added, “It is now attempting to formalise its authoritarian ways by incorporating CCS (Conduct) Rules in the Ordinances,”
The administration went on to issue show cause notices to 48 teachers for participating in a peaceful protest.
As a mark of protest against the implementation of the CCS rules in Universities, many teachers and students from JNU as well as civil society members voiced their opinions on Twitter.
Several tweets were made using #ModiGags as a voice of dissent to the CCS rules.
The Union HRD minister Prakash Javadekar and HRD secretary R. Subrahmanyam announced that Delhi University will not come under the purview of the Essential Services Management Act. Social activist Teesta Setalvad, CPI-ML leader Kavita Krishnan and Sweden-based professor Ashok Swain also tweeted on the matter. Few JNU teachers issued a statement calling it a “declaration of internal emergency in universities.”
This arbitral imposition of CCS rules on Universities, has conveniently overlooked the Allahabad high court judgement on the same matter while also violating the dignity of the academicians.
The honourable court had explicitly stated that, university teachers were exempted from the CCS. The judgement dated, March 19, 2015 by the Allahabad high court on writ No. 4178, Dr. Sumita Mitra vs Union of India and others clearly stated, “Professors of the university are neither members of a service nor do they hold a civil post under the union nor are they in the service of local or other authority. CCS (CCA) Rules, would therefore, have no application to a Central University.”
On Monday, October 22, the recommendation by the Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Academic Council to adopt Central Civil Services (CCS) rules for teachers was set aside by the university’s Executive Council (EC), and it was further decided that a committee would be set up to frame the conduct rules.
The JNU Teachers’ Association called it a victory for them.
“The JNU EC resolved to expedite the process of framing of conduct rules for teaching and non-teaching employees and the Vice-Chancellor underlined the fact that a committee in charge of framing such rules had already been set up. The committee has been entrusted with the task of ‘framing regulations for conduct/disciplinary/service rules for teaching and non-teaching employees of the university for consideration of the EC’. The VC has also confirmed that no CCS rules have been incorporated in JNU ordinances,” the Registrar Pramod Kumar said in a statement.
An Executive Council member further added, “Even though CCS rules were not adopted, the general attitude of the administration remains the same. They have decided to take punitive action against several teachers who they see as dissenters for various things, including not taking attendance or asking leave for conferences, etc. The EC also decided to reduce the term of elected representatives in the EC from two years to one year, and has notified elections for them, even though the term of the current elected representatives finishes in a few days.”