From the very inception of the university as an institution it has always been placed outside the purview of the government so that it can maintain its independence and autonomy. Questioning and critical thinking are the most important tools for enhancement of knowledge. Knowledge can’t grow in subjugation.
In its bid to demolish the institutions of higher learning, the present government is imposing the CCS rules on the academic community. Many central universities unfortunately will fall prey to these CCS rules and the latest case in hand that is bearing the brunt is Jawaharlal Nehru University.
As per the CCS (Conduct) Rules of 1964 (amended 2014) pg. 6-8:
(1) No government servant shall be a member of, or be otherwise associated with, any political party or any organisation which takes part in politics nor shall he take part in, subscribe in aid of, or assist in any other manner, any political movement or activity. (2) No government servant shall canvass or otherwise interfere with, or use his influence in connection with or take part in an election to any legislature or local authority: (ii) resort to or in any way abet any form of strike or coercion or physical duress in connection with any matter pertaining to his service or the service of any other government servant. (1) No government servant shall, except with the previous sanction of the government, own wholly or in part, or conduct or participate in the editing or management of, any newspaper or other periodical publication or electronic media. No government servant shall, in any radio broadcast, telecast through any electronic media or in any document published in his own name or anonymously, pseudonymously or in the name of any other person or in any communication to the press or in any public utterance, make any statement of fact or opinion – (i) which has the effect of an adverse criticism of any current or recent policy or action of the Central government or a State government: (ii) which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the Central government and the government of any State; or (iii) which is capable of embarrassing the relations between the Central government and the government of any foreign State.
This will have serious ramifications for the academic community. In one stroke, we will lose our independence of critical thinking as well as free expression of ideas and each one of us will be converted into yes men (of the government).
In such conditions, the professors of various disciplines can neither analyse nor criticise the policy of the government. Writing any opinion piece will require the approval of the higher authority. Any grievance redressal or making representation of the misgovernance against any higher authority will require the approval of the immediate authority. For example, making the representation to the vice-chancellor against the principal will require the consent of the principal which is evidently oxymoronic. This will result in inflexible regimentation of knowledge and ideas which simply highlights the current government’s intention to reduce higher education into a monolithic discourse.
It is unfortunate and a sad fact that the present ruling dispensation at the Centre, in arbitrarily imposing CCS rules on universities, has not only overlooked the Allahabad high court judgement in this regard but has also violated the dignity of teaching professionals. The honourable court has clearly and explicitly stated that university teacher are exempted from the CCS. The landmark judgement dated March 19, 2015 by the Allahabad high court on writ No. 4178, Dr. Sumita Mitra vs Union of India and others clearly states “Professors of the university are neither members of a service nor do they hold a civill post under the union nor are they in the service of local or other authority. CCS (CCA) Rules, would therefore, have no application to a Central University”.
It is very important to take into account the contribution of universities like Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University to the cause of the marginalised sections. Reservation for OBCs, LGBTQIA+, women reservation and similar issues that were raised by the university fraternity across country contributed to the deepening of democratic values in national politics. It could earlier be possible because the government allowed the academic community to express their opinion and finding to the larger public fearlessly. Under the new rules it will be extremely difficult for the academic community to express their views. This will be a national loss.
University fraternity has contributed to the government in various ways and criticism of the existing policy is an important component of this contribution as it allows flexibility in the functioning of the government. However the present government in its arrogance is hell bent on undermining all existing civic and political opinions which it considers to be aimed against it. Thus, the CCS Bill empowers the academic administrator to turn into academic tyrants. The whole intention of the present government in imposing the CCS conduct rules is to give a safe passage for the conversion of government funded institutions into private fiefdoms.
Lord Curzon, through the University Bill of 1903, wanted to convert the university into the department of government and he was resisted by Congress at that time. What Lord Curzon could not do, the present government has already done.
Let us wage a struggle against the CCS rule. Let us stand with the teachers of JNU and other central universities. Let us defeat the CCS rules. If we fail, the entire culture of public debate both inside and outside the university will be jeopardised.
Aditya Narayan Misra teaches political science at Sri Aurobindo College, University of Delhi and is former president of DUTA and FEDCUTA.