Imposition of CCS Rules in Central Universities
The view from JNU
October 22, 2018
In the wake of the protests in universities on a number of disastrous policy level changes — huge fund cuts for the University Grants Commission, state governed divestment from the higher education in the name of graded autonomy, tampering with reservation policy in both drawing up recruitment and in college administration, casualisation and reduction of employment in universities, widespread corruption, as well as authoritarian clampdown on free speech and thought — the government has now sought to muzzle teachers voices through the induction of the Central Civil Service (Conduct) Rules to govern the conduct of faculty in Central Universities.
On May 1 2018, the UGC-MHRD vide circular F No 22-9/2017(CU) instructed universities ‘such time that the concerned University formulates its Statutes, Ordinances, and Regulations, for service matters, the University should follow the Govt of India rules/orders as applicable to Central Govt. Civilian employees. This symbolises the most extreme form of state control of universities, and is a declaration of an internal emergency in universities.
There have been two responses by compliant administrations in different Central Universities. The first is to issue a circular mandating compliance with CCS Conduct Rules, the second is to adopt the conduct rules in university statutes on the grounds that this is mandated by the UGC. Universities such as Visva Bharti issued a circular mandating compliance with the MHRD-UGC’s direcitve to adopt CCS Rules. While other Universities such as the Indira Gandhi National Tribal University, Amarkantak have adopted the conduct rules in their Ordinances. JNU is in the process of adopting this latter route, despite protest by the overwhelming mass of teachers.
The “conduct rules” regime aims to obstruct academics from doing their academic work. The freedom to reason, profess, argue, dialogue, critique, debate and disagree is a professional requirement for an academia to flourish. For one has to be critical of tradition or method to find newness and create or discover innovation. Such a regime prevents teachers from contributing to democratic processes as citizens and curtails their professional and personal lives in ways that undermine their constitutional rights comprehensively. The imposition of these rules on academia mark the culmination of a process by which higher education is being brought under state control, by destroying the very idea of academic freedom and university autonomy.
* Rule 5 bars all political participation and activity beyond voting by the teacher and his family. For example, Rule 5(1) ‘no employee shall be a member of, or be otherwise associated with any political party or any organisation which takes part in politics, he shall not shall he take part in subscribed in aid of, or assist in any other manner, any political movement or activity’. Therefore, arguably no teacher can exercise the freedom to be a member of political party. However, Rule 15 (3) adds that in case of dispute, whether a party is a political party, or whether an activity is political, the decision of the University will be final.
• Effects: Academics must, in order to preserve their jobs, renounce political subscription to political parties, any organisation that takes part in politics, political movements or activities.
• The rule will allow witch hunts as university administrators are appointed by the ruling party, and may be inclined to deem all manner of activities as political activities when these are not pressed into the service of glorifying state policy.
• Any critique, whether academic, philosophic or empirical, will be seen as failing to demonstrate loyalty to the government, UGC or the University. To banish critique is to banish reflexivity, research and discourse from academic life. The new task of academics will be to glorify every state policy whether or not their research findings substantiate the policy as robust.
• If these rules had been in play in the 1980s, law teachers would never have thought of legal education as a form of social engineering and social change. If these rules had been applicable to university teachers, science education would have never been popularised and state policy on science would have never heeded peoples’ concerns.
• For many backward sections, particularly SCs, STs, OBCs, employment in education provide the necessary social and economic capital for entry into public life. This rule therefore amounts to shunting out academics from the task of building cultures of constitutionalism and equality.
* Rule 6 allows university administrations to define what is prejudicial and contrary to the interest of national interest, public order, decency or morality. It states that ‘no employee, teaching or non-teaching of the University ‘shall join or continue to be a member of an association, the object or activities of which are prejudicial to the interests of the sovereignty and integrity of India, public order, decency or morality’.
• Effects: University administrations may label as ‘misconduct’ any acts based on subjective and partisan appreciation of these terms.
• Universities are breeding grounds for social reform, where social change is incubated. However, armed with this rule, even a faculty member part of a women’s collective who writes a joint representation against gender based discrimination could be treated as misconduct, contrary to the university administration’s ideas of morality or decency. Or the university administration could label any kind of local or national critique or dissent as anti-national – as has been done a multiple times in the recent times.
• Any kind of critique of the university administration or the University Grants Commission (UGC) could be construed as against the interest of the nation.
• These rules produce a chilling effect on free speech, and will put in place a regime breeds nepotism, hierarchy, discrimination, mediocrity and rote. Banning critique of university or government policy or governance by calling it misconduct aims to provide impunity to the growth of the uncivil governance of universities.
* Rule 7 categorically bans dissent of all kinds – from those that are perceived to be contrary to interests of sovereignty to those demonstrations, which offend morality. It states that no employee shall ‘engage himself or participate in any demonstration or strike which is prejudicial to the interests of sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with the foreign states, public order, morality, decency or which involves contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence’.
• Effects: The participation of Dalit academics in movements for dignity and equality for Dalits could potentially be misconduct today. The feminist academics in the national movement to change the rape law in 2013 could amount to an act of misconduct in 2018. A demonstration on behalf of discrimination to another colleagues would also amount to misconduct.
• Strikes are in any case resorted to only in extreme circumstances in university campuses are rarely long-drawn out. They are invariably of a whistleblowing/calling attention nature, to alert the government and Parliament to violations of policies and laws by university administrations. These rules will therefore empower administrations with complete immunity from exposure, assuring regimes of complete impunity.
* Rules 8 and 9 will bring research and teaching to a grinding halt, particularly in the social sciences. Rule 8 (i) “No employee shall, except with the previous sanction of the University, own wholly or in part, or conduct, or participate in the editing or management of any newspaper or other periodical”. Rule 8 (ii) prohibits the publication of books and articles save for a purely scientific or literary character. Rule (9) makes it clear that all such intervention must not be of a nature that “has the effect of an adverse criticism of the Government” or embarrass relations with the Union or with any foreign government..
• Effects: Not only will teaching — which involves imparting the skills of evaluation, critique, etc., become impossible, research will too.
• First of all, these rules are a blanket ban on freedom of speech and expression; and introduces censorship as a condition of service. Thus re-writing the contract entirely as one that is based on coercion, instead of consent.
• Second, Indian government policy does not guide academic disciplines internationally in defining what the categories and areas of thought and inquiry are. However, with these rules in place, Indian academia will neither be able to teach or research those areas that are not in consonance with govt policy.
• Third, Indian academics will not be able to fulfil their professional goals — editorships and membership of editorial boards are honours in many disciplines, but they will not be allowed to accept them without prior sanction.
• Fourth, Rule 9 deprives teachers the opportunity to inform and influence public opinion, an essential role of academia.
* Rule 10 bans teachers from giving any sort of public testimony and expert opinion in people’s tribunals, jan sunwais. Rule 10(1) states that ‘no employee shall except with the previous sanction of the University give evidence in connection with any inquiry conducted by any person, committee or authority’. 10(2) makes it clear that even if sanction is obtained, it will be only for evidence or opinion that is not critical of the government. Rule 11 prohibits faculty from sharing unauthorised information with other colleagues and the public except when ordered to do so, or when the information is shared in good faith to discharge duties. Rule 12 prohibits faculty from raising funds, ask or accept subscriptions to funds or associate with fund raising in cash or kind for any object whatsoever.
• Effects: The historical role in society that university academics have played in society, as concerned citizens and public intellectuals, will now constitute misconduct. University enclaves may not be part of the government but they are a part of society — speaking up and acting for justice, reform, democratisation, and change is the role that academics must play if they are to give back to the society that created a space for learning and the imagination.
In 2015, the Division Bench of the Allahabad High Court in Dr. Suchitra Mitra and Anr. v. Union of India observed: “The professors of the university are neither members of a service nor do they hold a civil post under the union nor are they in the service of local or other authority. CCS(CCA) rules would, therefore, have no application to a central university.
Why then, is the UGC/MHRD hell-bent on imposing the CCS Rules on Central Universities? It is because the teachers movement across universities has been protesting government policy of divestment from, and privatisation of, college education through the autonomy regulations, the non-fulfilment of reservation policy in its true Constitutional spirit, and the casualisation of teacher employment. In other words, teachers' protests are for the preservation of access and equity for the public good. The imposition of CCS Rules in universities is to gag teachers, to prevent them from speaking up for the public in institutions created by the public.
TEACHERS FROM CENTRAL UNIVERSITIES SPEAK FOR THE PUBLIC, NOT THE GOVERNMENT!
OPPOSE AND RESIST THE IMPOSITION OF CCS RULES ON CENTRAL UNIVERSITY TEACHERS!
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