The President of India, Ram Nath Kovind, in his capacity as the visitor of the Visva Bharti University has cleared the name of Delhi University professor Bidyut Chakrabarty for appointment as the Vice Chancellor of Visva Bharti University. Chakrabarty had received adverse remarks against him in a case of sexual harassment that led to the unfavourable file noting(s) against him at the Department of Higher Education, Government of India, when his candidature for the appointment to the post of Vice Chancellor, Delhi University, was under consideration in 2015.
The then Joint Secretary (CU) S S Sandhu had written: “Out of the panel of four candidates, Prof. Bidyut Chakarbarty belongs to DU itself and is thus an insider and would bring an insider’s perception and outlook and not an outsider perspective. The latter may benefit DU more by bringing about enrichment, academic development, a new academic culture, techniques, methodologies etc. Further, though he is clear from vigilance angle, the observations of the Apex Committee in the sexual harassment case against him, that ‘to keep his past conduct in mind while considering any assignment, which involves intensive interaction with a female colleague/subordinates’, are adverse in nature.”
This note of the Joint Secretary (CU) was approved by the then Human Resource Development Minister Smriti Irani on January 29, 2016 when she recommended the name of Professor Yogesh Tyagi instead for the post of Vice Chancellor, Delhi University. The same was also approved by the then President cum Visitor Pranab Mukerjee.
In contrast to the position taken by the HRD Ministry on the issue of sexual harassment with regard to Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty in 2015, the HRD ministry under Prakash Javadekar has now recommended his name for the appointment to the post of Vice Chancellor of Visva Bharti University, despite the fact the same observations against Chakrabarty still hold ground and a second wave of #MeToo allegations from Indian media are flooding the national narrative.
Chakrabarty appointment as the VC of Visva Bharati has come after almost seven months since President Ram Nath Kovind had scrapped the panel of names proposed for the position at the behest of the Prakash Javadekar-led HRD ministry. The President had appointed Swapan Kumar Datta as the Vice Chancellor of the varsity, who was not the choice of Prakash Javadekar as the minister had recommended the name of Professor Sankar Kumar Nath from IIT Kharagpur instead. Miffed with the overruling of the minister’s recommendation, the HRD Ministry had then moved file for scrapping the entire panel so that a fresh panel of names for the post of Vice Chancellor, Visva Bharti University be obtained. The HRD ministry had cited multiple complaints against Professor Swapan Kumar Datta bordering on financial and administrative irregularities and called him a “compromise candidate”.