A peculiar conundrum haunts the controversial Nalanda University, Bihar. Did Nobel laureate Dr Amartya Sen recommend his own name for Chancellorship of the university? His elevation to the august office was announced at the governing board meeting of the university at Patna on July 19. Sen is the chairperson, governing board. A perusal of the Nalanda University Act, 2010 read with its statutes (by-laws) on the prescribed methods of appointment of Chancellor raises questions on Sen’s chancellorship.
Clause 14 (1) of the Nalanda University Act, 2010 says that the Chancellor shall be appointed by the Visitor—the President of India—for such term and in such manner as may be prescribed by the statutes. Clause 11 (1) says, ‘The Chancellor shall be appointed by the Visitor from a panel of names of not less than three persons recommended by the Governing Board and if the Visitor does not approve the recommended persons, he may invite a fresh panel.’
The statute implies that the ‘panel of names of not less than three persons’ recommended by the governing board is not drawn from a member of the governing board—not a ‘panel of names of not less than three persons out of the governing board’. What is odd is that Nalanda governing board should recommend to the Visitor three of its own members for the chancellorship. What is strange is that the recommendation letter is signed by chairperson, governing board—in this case, Sen himself.
It is still not clear what are the emoluments and privileges the Chancellor of the university will enjoy. As per the rules of Government of India—which is funding the university project—the Chancellor cannot hold two posts simultaneously.
When contacted, the Vice-Chancellor of Nalanda University Gopa Sabharwal refused to comment on the act but affirmed that there is no impropriety in Dr Sen holding two posts.
The term of the governing board would end in November but Sen would continue as Chancellor. Earlier, the university was a subject of controversy over Sen’s appointment of the vice-chancellor Sabharwal.