The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Party-clout cloud on campus
- Whispers of political bias in suspension of college principal

Round one to the CPM. Students of Jogesh Chandra Chaudhuri Law College stayed away from classes on Monday — responding to a boycott call by the Trinamul Congress-controlled students’ union — and Tollygunge Trinamul MLA Pankaj Banerjee mentioned the issue in the Assembly, but neither was of much help for principal Manik Bhattacharya, suspended last week by the college’s governing body which has CPM Calcutta District Committee member and former health minister Prasanta Sur as chairman.

The governing body, finding Bhattacharya’s answers to their queries “unsatisfactory” and suspending him to facilitate an “impartial” probe against him, put colleague Achina Kundu as acting principal. Though the governing body denied there was anything “political” in its decisions, they hinted that a Trinamul leader was backing Bhattacharya. “He was the polling agent of Trinamul leader Dibyendu Biswas in an Assembly election,” said Anjana Chatterjee, an aide of Sur on Monday. However, Sur refused to confirm her statement. “I have been told so but cannot vouch for that,” he said.

On Monday, the governing body announced the charges brought against Bhattacharya at Friday evening’s emergency meeting. According to members, the principal had given false statements about his work experience, which was inadequate for a principal’s post in a centre of higher education. They alleged that Bhattacharya had been teaching in a school since 1981 before joining Jogesh Chandra Chaudhuri Law College in 1998 as its principal.

“Bhattacharya did not have the legal experience required for the post of a law college principal,” Sur alleged. “Besides, the fact that he took a post-graduate degree in law and a Ph.D in the same academic session from different varsities is misleading,” he added.

However, the governing body, which came into power in February 2000, fumbled when asked why it had been silent for all these years. Members explained that procedural delays had prevented any hasty action. But the Trinamul Congress is not so sure. “Bhattacharya joined the college five years ago and the governing body has been in power for the past three years,” Trinamul leader Biswas said. “What has happened all of a sudden that the governing body was forced to convene an emergency meeting on Friday evening, more than eight hours after classes were over'” he asked.

Joy Bhattacharya, president of the students’ union, said students would continue boycotting classes till the problem was resolved. “The fact that the first teacher offered the principal’s charge (Sunanda Goenka) refused to accept it, though on ‘personal’ grounds, shows that not everyone is confident of a quick return to normalcy,” a teacher said.

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