Research director changed, JNU scholars move to High Court

Two researchers from Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) have sued the university after they were told to change research supervisors mid-stream on the grounds that the guide would retire in less than three years. In their petition to the Delhi High Court, the students alleged the decision was “unlawful, unnecessary and in bad faith”.

Both, Akhilesh Rawat and Om Prakash, are fourth-year MPhil-PhD students at the School of Computer and Systems Sciences (SC&SS).

They had been admitted in 2018 and Professor Rajeev Kumar had been appointed as supervisor at the time. In September last year, the dean told them to change supervisors orally, which was turned into a written directive in January this year and then confirmed by the rector on February 28. Now the two students have approached the HC vs. JNU, the Dean of SC&SS as well as the University Grants Commission, and Zahid Raza as Chair, MTech/PhD Coordination cum SC&SS Advisory Committee which issued the letter. After the first hearing, Judge Rekha Palli issued notice to the parties in a written order on March 11.

In their petition to the HC, the duo said JNU cited clause 6.2 of the orders to argue for a change of supervisor. It states: “The center or school/specialist center concerned will recommend only one regular full-time faculty member of the center or school/specialist center (who will not reach the age of retirement over the next three academic years) as research director…” Kumar is due to retire in March 2024. However, they claimed that when Kumar was appointed supervisor “he was more than five years away from his retirement date ( 31.03.2014)”, and that the clause “does not apply to this Case”.

“The research supervisor plays a crucial role during the doctoral program, which is highly dependent on the candidate’s report, the direction of the research and the continuity of the orientation. Adding a new person as a primary supervisor can significantly hamper applicants’ ability to complete their research. Petitioners are also at risk of losing their scholarship and confirmed registration…” the petition states.

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