The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought the stand of Jamia Millia Islamia on a petition assailing the university’s order dissolving an association of its teachers.
Justice Prathiba M Singh issued notice on the petition by Amir Azam, a former president of the ‘Jamia Teachers Association’, and asked the respondent institute to place in a sealed cover a copy of the report of a committee constituted to examine the association’s constitution.
The judge remarked she “agreed that there has to be an association of teachers” and granted time to the varsity to file its response to the plea.
The court also said if a delegation of teachers wished to meet the Vice Chancellor (VC) to resolve the issue in the meantime, a meeting will be conducted in his office on December 20 at 11:30 am.
“The question that arises in the writ is two-fold. First, whether the petitioner can maintain the writ petition as he no longer works at the university. Two, whether the Jamia Teachers Association can function independently of the statute constituting the university, in the absence of a prohibition,” the court observed.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal appeared on behalf of the petitioner and argued that the teachers association can and is entitled to function independently of the university and the orders passed by the VC cannot be sustained.
“Can you imagine that a teachers’ association has been disbanded? What is the authority of the VC to do that?” Sibal asked.
He emphasised the teachers have the fundamental right to form an association under Article 19(1) (c) of the Constitution, which is only subject to morality, public order and security of State. Advocate Abhik Chimni also appeared for the petitioner.
Lawyer Pritish Sabharwal, appearing on behalf of the university, said a teachers’ association has to be as per the Jamia Act and a six-member committee has been formed to look into the constitution of the association and a report of may be awaited.
In the petition filed through lawyers Ch. Animes Prusty and Mukul Kulhari, the petitioner–a scientist who earlier worked as a professor in the Department of Chemistry at JMI, said the Jamia Teachers’ Association (JTA) was constituted in the year 1967 as an autonomous body and has since operated as per its Articles of the Constitution towards the interests of the teachers.
The plea said its office bearers are duly elected by the members of the JTA but the VC “derailed” the election process this year and subsequently dissolved the association last month “illegally and arbitrarily”.
“Since JTA is an autonomous body and is governed by its constitution therefore it’s trite in law that the JTA can only be dissolved in the manner prescribed in its Constitution. Therefore, the act of the Vice-Chancellor to dissolve the JTA and derail the election process on the recommendations of the Deans of Faculties ….. is illegal and arbitrary,” the petition said.
The act of the University of issuing an advisory to the members of the association restraining them from attending the general body meeting of the JTA is in “direct contravention” of the fundamental rights of the members of the association to assemble peacefully and form associations, it added. It is also contended the university’s decision to constitute a committee to look into the shortcomings in the bylaws and the JTA constitution is “completely arbitrary” and liable to be set aside.
The plea claimed the university has no authority to interfere in the internal functioning of the JTA or to set up a committee to go into the shortcomings of its constitution. The matter will be heard next on February 14.
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