Church autocracy


On 13th May 2019, in a meeting of Staff Council, John Varghese, the Principal of St. Stephen’s College announced that the interview panel for selection of students for admission will include a member of the Supreme Council (SC).

Admissions 2019 are around the corner and in the midst of all the preparation John Varghese, the Principal, St. Stephen’s College announced a decision increasing the involvement of Church of North India (CNI) in the admission process.

The SC of the college includes six members from CNI. The Chairperson of both the Governing Body (GB) and SC is the Bishop of Diocese of Delhi, CNI, Warris Masih, and the Member Secretary of both these committees is the Principal, Professor John Varghese. According to the statement released by the representatives of the GB, Nandita Narain (Associate Professor, Department of Mathematics), N.P. Ashley (Assistant Professor, Department of English), and Abhishek Singh (Assistant Professor, Department of Economics), this decision is directly against Clauses 4 and 5 of the College Constitution which read as follows:

  1. The SC of the college shall have the control of the religious and moral instruction of students of the college and of all matters affecting its religious character as a Christian College of the Church of North India; and, in addition, shall appoint, after proper advertisement, the Principal of the College who shall be a member of the CNI or of a church that is in communion with the CNI.
  2. The SC of the college shall have no jurisdiction over the administration of the college.

The statement also stated that all the teachers present at the meeting protested against the unilateral announcement. As stated by them, this decision is not only in violation of College Constitution but also the 1992 judgement of the Supreme Court of India that upheld the Minority status of the college according to which, the college was allowed to have “a separate admission process including an interview with 15% weightage only because the interviews were conducted solely by the teachers.” If this decision comes through, then it will be the first time that a non-academic person from outside the faculty of St. Stephen’s College will sit in the admission interviews.

The governing body has also called out a conflict of interest in the Principal bringing in another member of SC into the interview panel, as it is, the SC that selects the Principal, and will also take the decision about the renewal of his appointment for another term of five years.

On the other hand, Bishop Warris K Masih of CNI told the Indian Express, “It doesn’t matter if it has never happened before. The college belongs to us. The teacher representatives have no right to object.” When asked about the violation of College Constitution, he stated, “We just felt like that. We are concerned about the 50% Christian students; the other students will go as always.”

The aforementioned representatives of the Governing Body, in response to this decision, have called out for support from its students to participate in a protest on 17th May at 12:30 p.m. near the Main Portico in the Campus and demand its rollback. The statement also calls this decision ‘illegal and unacademic’ and according to them, this decision could compromise the integrity of the admission process.

Speaking to DU Beat, Sidharth Yadav, State Secretary, Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) said, “The decision of including Fathers from Church (Members of the SC) to the admission committee is arbitrary and condemnable. This would weaken the secular fabric of the university. This is not only against the constitution of the college but also against the principles laid down in India’s constitution.” He further added that if the decision is not withdrawn, the ABVP would be forced to mobilise the student community to raise their voice against this autocratic decision.



Image Credits: Surbhit Rastogi for DU Beat

Sakshi Arora

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