|Pabitra Sarkar: Hour of answering
Calcutta, Aug. 27: The high court today asked Pabitra Sarkar, whose PhD from the University of Chicago has been mired in controversy, to produce all documents relating to his MA and doctorate work there.
An academic of repute and a former Visva-Bharati vice-chancellor, Sarkar does not yet have proof of his PhD from Chicago.
The division bench of acting chief justice A.N. Roy issued the directive responding to a public interest litigation filed by the Trinamul Congress-backed West Bengal Nationalist Teachers’ Association.
The court also asked the teachers’ body to file an affidavit with proof that Sarkar was still receiving government money as pension.
The petitioner had demanded a probe and sought an order directing authorities to take action against Sarkar for obtaining promotion from the post of lecturer to reader at Jadavpur University despite not having a PhD certificate.
The counsel for the petitioner, Ajit Panja, said in a packed courtroom that it was “public demand” to know the truth about Sarkar’s Chicago degrees, “MA-II and PhD”.
“My client has definite information that Sarkar does not hold any MA-II degree from Chicago University as there is no such course there. Sarkar also does not have a PhD from the university. But he was elevated to the post of reader from lecturer at Jadavpur University (based) on his claim of holding the two degrees,” the counsel said.
He added that though Sarkar had retired from the post, he was still receiving pension. “As the money is being paid from government coffers, people have a right to know the whole story,” Panja said.
Advocate-general Balai Ray told the court: “The government is not paying Sarkar’s pension.” Perhaps a government-sponsored institution is, he added.
Appearing on behalf of Sarkar, Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya opposed the petition and argued that the case was not tenable.
“My client possesses all documents relating to the degree and the certificate,” Bhattacharya claimed.
Academics familiar with Sarkar echoed what he had claimed earlier — that he earned the doctorate in 1975 but did not receive the certifying document as he had not completed certain formalities.
“At the summer convocation of Chicago University, Sarkar will be awarded the degree. It is expected to reach him tomorrow or day after,” one of them said.
Another section of academics had triggered the degree row accusing Sarkar of not possessing a doctorate but using the prefix ‘Dr’ with his name.
The court fixed the next date of hearing the PIL after five weeks.