In a judgment that has serious implications for the historically deprived communities, the Jammu and Kashmir High Court has said that an university can draw up its own eligibility criteria for teaching positions and that they can be higher than those prescribed by the University Grants Commission, but not lower. While this judgment may help enhance the standards of higher education, the worry is that it may give rise to more marginalization. It may push Dalits, Tribals and OBCs further away from the universities, because for them, even acquiring the minimum qualifications set by the UGC is an uphill task for a variety of reasons. They will lose out to the upper-caste candidates armed with higher qualifications.
The High Court was ruling on a petition for annulling a clause in the advertisement for a position of assistant professor issued by Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Technology (SKUAST), Srinagar. The clause said that only applicants with a PhD in Forestry could apply. Justice Ali Mohammad Magrey pronounced the judgment.
The judgment said that any university or institute could set a minimum qualification higher than the one prescribed by the UGC Regulations 2010 if the rules of the state government and the university/institute prescribe such a qualification.
Last year, on 13 March, the SKUAST issued an advertisement, announcing vacancies for assistant professors. These included a post of assistant professor-cum-junior scientist (Forestry), for which the candidate was required to hold a PhD degree in Forestry, apart from other qualifications.
The petitioner was also one of the applicants. However, his application was rejected on the ground that he had a PhD in Chemical Engineering and thus did not fulfil the necessary qualifications. The petition was for a directive to be issued to SKUAST to re-advertise the post adhering to the minimum qualifications set by the UGC.
Justice Magrey, quoting a Supreme Court judgment, said that the university’s raising the eligibility criteria was in keeping with the objective of the UGC 2010 Regulations, which was to improve the standards of higher education.
Commenting on this judgment, R.K. Kalsotra, convener of the J&K SC, ST, OBC Confederation, claimed that reservation norms are not being followed in the state. He said SKUAST’s raising the eligibility criteria was a clear case of trying to bar the entry of Dalitbahujans to higher education. He also said that this was not the first time that such a conspiracy was hatched in the state. He said that the Indian Constitution provides certain privileges to the state of Jammu & Kashmir under Article 370 but that right from the time of Independence, these have been misused. For instance, he said, reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes were introduced in the entire country in 1950 but Jammu & Kashmir implemented reservations for SCs only in 1970 and for STs in 1990. Now, he added, only the bare-bones version of the Mandal Commission report has been implemented in state. According to Kalsotra, OBCs form 57 per cent of the state’s population but they have been only getting 2 per cent reservation, which is nowhere close to the 27 per cent that the Mandal Commission recommended.
Translation: Amrish Herdenia; copy-editing: Parmanand/Anil
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