Dissent

IIMC Considers Imposing Civil Service Rules Barring Any Critique of Government

The media school’s faculty members have protested saying that the rules would affect their academic freedom.

Indian Institute of Mass Communication. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The Indian Institute of Mass Communication (IIMC) is considering whether to adopt Central Civil Services (CCS) Conduct Rules for its faculty members, who termed it as a bid to “gag them” and an assault on “academic freedom.”

Three JD(U) MPs have also written to information and broadcasting minister Smriti Irani alleging that the administration of the state-run media school is “politicising” academic issues raised by the teaching staff.

The issue figures on the agenda of the institute’s executive council (EC) meeting scheduled for August 11, where a decision may be taken to include code of conduct, professional ethics and disciplinary matters in the IIMC’s bylaws.

The CCS Rules bar government servants from criticising any current or recent policy or action of the central government or a state government.

A committee was formed in 2016 to deliberate on the issue, which in its last meeting on July 28 framed its recommendations including that the IIMC may follow all rules of the central government wherever IIMC bylaws are silent.

“Regarding the professional code of ethics and other issues, a comprehensive review of IIMC’s bylaws may be done since about five decades have elapsed since they were adopted. For this, a committee may be constituted which may also include representatives from the DoPT [Department of Personnel and Training, universities], the UGC [University Grants Commission] and IIPA [Indian Institute of Public Administration],” the agenda item states.

It also mentions that some of the faculty members were not in favour of adoption of code of conduct in the line of central government’s CCS Conduct Rules arguing it would affect their academic freedom.

When contacted, IIMC director-general K.G. Suresh declined to comment.

The agenda document adds, “Some of them argued for ‘unconditional and absolute freedom’ and that media have to perform the role of watchdog and in this context no academic institution which professes and advocates the freedom of speech and expression can be confined to the narrow framework of service conditions.”

The committee observed that the contention regarding unconditional and absolute freedom cannot be accepted as the constitution itself provided for reasonable restrictions on the fundamental right as enumerated in Article 19.

“IIMC is not a media organisation acting as watchdog but a media institute and therefore, this contention of the faculty members also cannot be accepted,” the committee said.

JD(U) MPs Ali Anwar Ansari, Ramnath Thakur and Kahkashan Perween, who wrote to Irani, have asked, “is this attempt to snatch the academic freedom of teachers in higher educational institutions appropriate?”

Two faculty members, on the condition of anonymity, said they are not against any code of conduct but it would be a “transparent contradiction” that teachers of journalism are not allowed to express their opinion and critique on public policy and other relevant social, political and economic issues in the media.

Eight of 11 faculty members at the IIMC here had last month written to the secretary of Information and Broadcasting Ministry, who is also the chairperson of the institution, accusing its director general of “targeting and defaming” them.

Suresh had reacted to the allegations saying many of these faculty members were into “activism” and their “tantrums” could be described as “theatre of the absurd.”