Published: 15th September 2020
Ashamed that I had to go to the court for leave: Why Delhi HC, not JNU granted Dr Udaya Kumar leave for fellowship
The professor said that while he was grateful to the HC for upholding the "basic values of academic life", he was ashamed that it had to come to this
Dr Udaya Kumar of the Centre for English Studies in Jawaharlal Nehru University is ashamed that he had to move the Delhi High Court to avail leave for a fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Study, Nantes, France. Dr Kumar had applied for leave with the varsity in January which was rejected. The administration did not respond with a satisfactory reply which forced him to file a writ petition. The Delhi High Court on September 14 directed JNU to grant Dr Kumar the Extraordinary Leave he applied for and also awarded the professor Rs 20,000, the cost he had to bear to file the petition due to the "illegal and arbitrary rejection of the request".
The professor said that while he was grateful to the HC for upholding the "basic values of academic life", he was ashamed that it had to come to this. "I had written to the Registrar through the Dean of the School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies and the Chairperson of the Centre for English Studies. But the application was rejected in the Executive Council meeting on February 18. Since then I have mailed the authority several times seeking an explanation. But the only reply I got was that it was rejected. It's almost like they did not understand the question. Then they said that the EC minutes did not contain any reason for why they leave was not granted as leave is not a matter of right of an employee. I never said that it is my right. I wanted to know if there were any shortcomings in the application so that I can correct them," he added.
Justice Jyoti Singh, while announcing the verdict also stated that she was amazed that JNU was not willing to grant the leave for one of its professors to acquire higher qualifications. "I must express here that the Court is a little amazed at the resistance of the university to grant EOL to the petitioner (Dr Udaya Kumar) for his fellowship. There is no denying the fact that he is not going on leave for any self-service or self-employment. He is only going to acquire higher qualifications and in my view, it is a matter of great prestige also for the university that one of its professors has been offered a fellowship at the prestigious Institute for Advanced Study in France. The Court also cannot overlook the fact that ever since the petitioner has joined the university he has not availed a single day of EOL and has continued to serve the varsity," said the judge.
Calling the rejection completely arbitrary and violation of the ordinance of the university, Justice Singh said that the professor had to go through the trouble of filing the writ petition and for that, he will be awarded compensation, "In my view, the rejection of the application for grant of EOL is completely arbitrary and against the provisions of the Ordinance of the University and contravenes the Wednesbury’s Principles of reasonableness and fairness. The defence of the Respondents regarding the 20 per cent ceiling is untenable in law and cannot be sustained," she said. "Present writ petition is accordingly allowed. Impugned orders are hereby set aside. Due to the illegal and arbitrary rejection of the request of the Petitioner for grant of EOL, petitioner was constrained to file the present petition and accordingly cost of Rs 20,000 is awarded in favour of the petitioner," she added.
The JNU Teachers' Association welcomed the Delhi High Court order and said that this has been happening for quite some time and the verdict has mentioned all these cases as well. Dr Kumar had asked for EOL from October 1, 2020, to June 30, 2021. The professor is set to travel to France soon as his fellowship starts from October 1. "I still haven't got the order from the university granting my leave. I am yet to apply for the visa. I have written to them requesting to release the order within three days. I hope they will do so otherwise it will be a violation of the court order," said the professor.