Calcutta, March 30: This is one case of electoral malpractice that has failed to avoid a court’s gaze.
Kalyani University has lost a legal battle — over an election to the science faculty dean’s post — to senior teacher Siddhartha Roy, who was convinced that the authorities conspired to defeat him.
The post, say officials, is “strategically important” because of the vital role it plays in, among other things, distributing largesse: recruitment and promotion of teachers. A faculty’s dean is also an important member of the university’s court and executive council (the two highest decision-making bodies of the varsity) and has a large say in the conduction of examinations, determination of the syllabi and awarding of doctorates, say officials, explaining why the authorities usually want individuals perceived to be close to them to adorn the post.
In the election held to the science faculty dean’s post (in June 2002), Asit Guha edged out Roy after university vice-chancellor Nityananda Saha cast a vote to resolve a tie. But the university tribunal, of former Calcutta High Court judge and Sikkim High Court chief justice Malay Sengupta, has termed “improper” the procedure adopted by the vice-chancellor in conducting the poll and ruled Guha’s election “invalid and void”.
Taking a dim view of what happened during the election and making particularly caustic comments on the procedure adopted by the authorities, the ruling — passed earlier this month — says: “It is true that, from the very start of the election process, some novelty was introduced.”
Roy and Guha were the two contestants for the post and the electoral college comprised 32 members of the science faculty. At the end of the election — of which Saha, as the vice-chancellor, was the chairman and returning officer — Roy and Guha were found to have netted 16 votes each.
University statutes keep an option for such situations, saying the tie must be broken by a “draw of lots”. All such cases are usually decided by the toss of a coin — there were ties in two other intra-varsity polls in 2002 itself — but Saha surprised everyone by saying he would decide the issue by his “casting vote”.
Amid protests — both verbal and written — Saha “voted” for Guha, prompting Roy to go to the tribunal. His appeal, however, reached the court much later than usual, prompting the court to note that “unfortunately, too much time” was taken by the university to transfer Roy’s plea to it.
Roy fought his own case even as the university employed a legal team that cost it some money. The tribunal, however, was categorical in upholding Roy’s plea and directed the university to strip Guha of the dean’s post and arrange for the “draw of lots” within 10 days.