A month after Professor Meera Sood’s enforced retirement by the Principal of Vivekananda College, the High Court (HC) has granted her interim protection of services.
Dr (Professor) Meera Sood, an Assistant Professor of Physical Education at Vivekananda College, received an order by the college Principal stating her retirement age to be 62 years; the stipulated retirement age for professors being 65 years. As reported by DU Beat earlier last month, the order derived its authority from rejecting Sood’s position as a Teaching Assistant Professor, and instead, classifying her as Director of Physical Education.
However, as clarified by Sood herself, a resolution passed in 1991, which determined that physical education teachers should be placed on the faculty roster, allowed redesignation of Directors of Physical Education as Professors.
Sood also mentioned that since the resolution’s implementation, Professors of Directorate Education have retired only after reaching the stipulated age of retirement, i.e., 65.
A Division Bench of the Delhi HC, comprising of Justices Sistani and Jyoti Singh, after a comprehensive hour-long hearing, granted interim protection to Dr Meera Sood. Sood had challenged the alleged illegal and “unreasonable” action of the college Principal.
Sunil Mathews and Sabah Iqbal Siddiqui, Sood’s Legal Counselors argued before the HC that the University Grants Commission (UGC) had stated in Right to Information (RTI) replies and clarifications issued that the retirement age of Associate Professors of Physical education was 65 years, and not 62. The Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) also released a statement in this regard, “It was also contended on her behalf that the University of Delhi (DU) had in the case of several other colleges, taken the position that the retirement age of such associate professors of Physical Education was 65 years.”
DUTA’s month-long dharna and relay hunger strike on the issue came to fruition in the form of HC’s judgement. The judgement has been hailed by teachers across the varsity and DUTA.
DUTA President, Rajib Ray said, “DUTA condemns the dishonest and negative role played by the counsels for DU and UGC, and demands their removal, as well that of the Officiating Principal of Vivekanand College, Dr Hina Nandrajog.”
Interestingly, the Division Bench also considered the fact that the Governing Body of Vivekananda College had itself taken the position that the retirement age of Dr Sood was 65 years. Despite this, the Principal of the said college issued a letter that Dr Sood’s tenure as a college teacher would come to an end on May 31, 2019; clearly establishing a case of discriminatory authority.
“Her plea was strongly opposed by Legal Counsel appearing for Vivekananda College, as well as the counsels appearing for DU and UGC,” said the DUTA statement. It also added, “Dr Sood had not obtained any interim protection of her service from the learned Single Bench and therefore was constrained to approach the Division Bench. The Division Bench while granting protection of service till the next date also recorded an undertaking that Dr Sood would return salaries paid if she was unsuccessful in her case and the retirement age was to be held at 62.”
Unfortunately, Dr Sood refused to comment on the issue.
Feature Image Credits: The Print