Prof Sanjeev Kumar Sharma
The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) has sought a detailed reply from two universities following a complaint that the vice-chancellor of one of these institutions allegedly hid a Vigilance department inquiry into his appointment as a professor during his tenure at the other varsity.
As per Central university norms for appointment of V-C, no Vigilance "examination" or probe into complaints of misconduct should be pending against a candidate for 10 years before appointment.
The ministry has sought replies from Mahatma Gandhi Central University (MGCU) in Motihari, Bihar, and Choudhary Charan Singh University (CCSU) in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, after receiving a complaint that MGCU V-C, Prof Sanjeev Kumar Sharma, allegedly hid information on a pending Vigilance inquiry against him to get the V-C's post.
The inquiry related to alleged irregularities in his appointment as registrar of the Meerut varsity in 2006, and subsequent promotion as professor in 2007.
Sharma, who was a professor of Political Science at CCSU-Meerut, was appointed vice-chancellor of MGCU-Motihari in April 2019.
Joint Secretary (Central Universities) Girish Hosur told The Indian Express: "After we received complaints regarding his appointment as V-C and previous promotion, we have sought detailed reply on all allegations from CCSU-Meerut and MGCU-Motihari.”
Hosur said they will wait for replies from the two universities before further action.
Sharma did not reply to phone calls, email, text and WhatsApp messages for a comment on the development.
MGCU's OSD Padmakar Mishra and PRO Sephalika Mishra also did not respond.
CCSU, Meerut, registrar Dhirendra Kumar confirmed the MHRD intimation and said they would reply after February 22. "Now we have details of the Vigilance case. We will report back with latest investigation findings and case status in court,” Kumar said.
The present controversy dates back to 2017, when the Vigilance unit of Meerut registered a case in December against then V-C of CCSU, Prof Sant Prasad Ojha, for allegedly promoting Sharma from the position of reader to professor in 2007 even though the UGC said Sharma did not meet the requisite promotion criteria.
The Vigilance FIR also mentions Ojha's move to appoint Sharma as CCSU registrar in 2006 even though, as V-C, he had “no such power”. The FIR was registered on a complaint by Deshraj Singh, a local resident.
An RTI activist from Meerut and Supreme Court lawyer Sandeep Kumar Pahal has recently moved a complaint to the HRD Ministry and sought immediate action against Sharma.
Prof Ratnesh Anand, principal of SSM College, Motihari, who was among those shortlisted for the MGCUB V-C post, told The Indian Express that he has also written to the PMO about the “pending Vigilance examination against Sharma".
Documents available with The Indian Express show that Sharma, who was among three final shortlisted candidates, had to fill a 13-point proforma for grant of Vigilance clearance, required by officials of autonomous institutions or organisations under the MHRD's administrative control. MHRD Under Secretary and Chief Public Information Officer S K Biswas had said this on December 23, 2019, in reply to an RTI query by Madhya Pradesh resident Nikhil Kumar.
UGC Under Secretary Shashi Munjal had, in December 2006, written to then CCSU V-C Ojha: "It has been observed that Dr Sanjeev Sharma...was promoted/ appointed as reader on 22 December 1999. As such he would complete eight years period as reader on 21 December 2007...Secondly, instead of five, only three publications have been got published by Dr Sharma.”
Additional SP, Vigilance, Meerut, A K Tripathy, could not be contacted for a comment. Sandeep Pahal, who has moved the complaint to MHRD, told The Indian Express, “I have not yet received a reply from the ministry.”
Senior lawyer at Patna High Court Tuhin Shanker said, “Since the MHRD proforma uses the term 'examination' by Vigilance, Sharma may face legal problems for hiding information during his appointment as vice-chancellor.”