Late Mr V N Narayanan, before joining as the Editor in Chief of the Tribune group of papers at Chandigarh, was working as a Resident Editor of the local edition of a Delhi based national Newspaper.
Once I asked him how he was feeling after being elevated from an earlier number two position to that of number one. After a brief pause he replied that he loved working at the number two position more than at the current top position. Frankly speaking then I could not comprehend his remark fully.
It was much later when I got elevated to the post of principal of the college where I was working as a teacher, I fully understood Mr Narayanan’s predicament. For I found out, sooner than later, how hard it is to head an institution. It is like walking on a tight rope while every other fellow tries to pull you down. Filing of anonymous and malicious complaints is a very common ploy that people in educational institutions use to pull down a head.
Since its establishment in 1882 as University of Punjab at Lahore (now in Pakistan), the Panjab University Chandigarh has went through many ups and downs; mostly downs. Following is the recent incident of its lowest and unimaginable fall.
When Arun Grover, a hard core academician, joined as the Vice Chancellor of The Panjab University in the year 2012, there emerged a ray of hope that the varsity would now grow academically well.
Basically a scientist of international repute Grover, who is known for his winning First Burker Young Scientist award; of getting Material Research of India Medal; of getting Homi Bhabha Science and Technology Award of Barc, D,A.E; of being fellow of Indian Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Sciences; of being designated by the Government of Japan as a Foreign Specialist Awardee and thus carrying out a collaborative research at Electro Technical Laboratory at Tsukba, also has been an able teacher and administrator.
And he certainly did achieve quite a number of successes in improving the academic standards of the varsity, particularly in boosting research oriented fields.
However, impediments in his functioning were raised more than often because he did not become a party to any particular group in the governing bodies, against whose faulty formation, based on decades old provisions contained in varsity calendar, he has been fighting.
As if putting of minor hiccups in his working was insufficient to pull him down, a case of sexual harassment allegedly was planted against him in 2015, from which he has recently been absolved after five long years, which he passed through humiliations and hurts of unimaginable volume.
Interestingly, in this case, perhaps first of its kind, the complainant reportedly used every legal lacuna to linger the case for such a long period by never appearing before the fact finding committee that was duly constituted by the Vice President of India, ex-officio Chancellor of the University.
For on the eve of very first date that was fixed by the Committee to start its proceedings, the complainant sought its deferment, till the Chancellor decides upon her representation that she had submitted to his office against the formation of the committee.
Still the Committee gave her three more chances to appear before it. But she did not appear on any specified date. Using the same delaying tactics she, a day or so before the last and third chance that was given to her to appear before the committee, the complainant filed a suit in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, pleading the scrapping of the committee.
Surely the proceedings of the case did get delay for a considerable long time. But ultimately the court disallowed her petition.
After the court’s judgement a seemingly irritated by the complainants delaying schemes the Chancellor’s office “desired the university to request the Chairman of the Committee to complete the enquiry within a stipulated period of ninety days”.
This time also the Committee gave her three chances to appear before it, as she did not attend any of the meeting, harping on the same old objection over the formation of the committee, which the court had already set aside.
All this was being done by the complainant perhaps because there was not any meat in her allegations. Her only aim seemed to linger the case on for as long as possible so that Grover’s image remains sullied.
Finally, providing relief to Arun Grover, the committee cleared him of the malicious charges some four years after these were levelled against him.
Though Grover has now been absolved of the vile charges by an authoritative committee, the scars of continual mental sufferings of four years, due to an extreme loss of his repute and credibility, perhaps cannot be healed soon. Moreover the case is yet to reach its conclusion.
Sadly enough, because of such malicious charges, despite being nullified, still eclipse his commendable doings both as a fine academic administrator at the varsity level and as a mature scientist at the international level. Now you Google Arun Grover’s name scores of news reports about his sexual harassment case would pop up.
The former vice chancellor is now reported to have requested his successor to convene a meeting of the outgoing Senate before the end of its four year term in 2020, so to punish the errant complainant. His demand has reportedly been supported, in writing, by quite a few in the governing body.
However having a known tardy functioning of our jurisprudence how many more years it will now take to punish a wrong filer of such a serious natured complaint, only God knows.
Justice delayed is not just its denial: it is injustice!
(Published on 07th September 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 37)