Dr. Neeraj Hatekar reinstated by Mumbai University

My post Guilty until proven innocent? on January 8, 2014 described how the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Mumbai had used “emergency powers” to suspend Dr. Neeraj Hatekar after Dr. Hatekar was part of a press conference, in which he reported the alleged mismanagement at the varsity and the deterioration of the university’s academic status.

On January 20, 2014, DNA reported that, after a 10-hour long meeting of the management council starting on Saturday afternoon and ending in the early hours of Sunday, January 19, 2014, the University of Mumbai has reinstated Dr. Hatekar and has ordered an inquiry by a retired High Court judge into Hatekar’s conduct and the issues raised by him.

The report states that the one-member fact-finding committee reported that all 16 charges levelled by Hatekar bear no fact. However, a press release issued by the university said, “None of the 16 charges levelled by Hatekar bears any fact. However, for the welfare of the students and also considering the public sentiments, the management council recommended that his suspension be revoked.”

What happened between Dr. Hatekar’s suspension and his reinstatement?

According to this NDTV report, Dr. Hatekar’s students protested vehemently against his suspension. They also attended classes conducted by him on the road outside the university.

DNA reports that Dr. Hatekar challenged the varsity’s decision in the Bombay High Court, citing it “illegal” as the varsity neither issued a show-cause notice nor conducted any inquiry before suspending him.

In an interview to DNA, Dr. Hatekar has stated that there was a signature campaign from 125 villages of Maharashtra in his support, and that Jagdish Bhagwati, Ramchandra Guha and teachers from other universities appealed for him on their own.

According to the NDTV report, Mumbai University Chancellor and Maharashtra Governor asked the Vice Chancellor to review the suspension order.

Interestingly, in the interview to DNA, Dr. Hatekar has stated that some politicians did come to him, but he told them their help was not needed. He has also stated that he has no intention of joining politics. He took up the whole matter because, “Public universities are run from tax payer’s money; I am also a tax payer and it’s my duty to raise a voice if I find any wrongdoing.”

None of the reports state this, but we can be certain that, given the vindictive and arbitrary manner of the suspension, attempts would have been made to find if any allegations of wrongdoing or misconduct of any sort could be made against Dr. Hatekar to pressurize him into softening his stand, and that these attempts met with no success.

Dr. Neeraj Hatekar, a non-political common person with a clean record, has been fighting hard for a just cause that he believes in. He has received strong support from many other non-political common persons, some of whom are not directly connected to the cause. He was offered support from politicians, but did not take it. He has won the first round of the battle. This is truly heartening!

Since the inquiry will be conducted by a retired High Court judge, we can probably expect that justice will be done in this matter. Let us hope for the best.

Guilty until proven innocent?

In “To sir, with love: University students to protest against prof’s wrongful suspension”, MID-DAY reported that around 1,000 students of Mumbai University had decided to miss class on January 08, 2014, protesting the suspension of Dr Neeraj Hatekar, a professor of Econometrics in the Economics Department at the University of Mumbai. Dr. Hatekar was suspended after he was part of a press conference in December, in which he reported the alleged mismanagement at the varsity and the deterioration of the university’s academic status.

In “Mumbai University is suffering for want of proper academic leadership”, The Times of India reports that Dr. Hatekar had alleged instances of the Vice-Chancellor’s attempts at perjury and false claims, and had exposed the V-C’s incapacity to govern an institution of the size and standard of Mumbai University.

According to his CV, available on Mumbai University’s website, Dr Neeraj Hatekar has been working with the University for 20 years. Since 2008, he has been a Professor. When a senior faculty member made serious allegations against the V-C, the Management Council should have looked into those allegations. If the MC had found the allegations false and/or frivolous and/or motivated, or if his allegations or the manner in which he made them constituted an act of indiscipline, Dr. Hatekar should have been issued a show-cause notice and given a chance to defend himself. Instead, the MC gave the VC their consent to use “emergency powers” to suspend the Professor.

In our country, every person is considered innocent until proven guilty. Even a person accused of crimes like corruption, rape or murder is considered innocent, and it is the responsibility of the prosecution to prove him/her guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

However, Dr. Neeraj Hatekar has been declared guilty until proven innocent. He has “submitted a petition to the High Court, questioning the suspension order and asking for it to be revoked.” His students are supporting him in various ways. In addition to protesting, they have started a signature campaign, are planning to meet the state’s Governor, and are trying to garner the support of students from affiliated colleges. The AAP has supported Dr. Hatekar, but it’s not known how much impact their support will have.

Is there anything we can do, other than hoping that Dr. Neeraj Hatekar gets justice?