“Shifting the onus to the Screening Committee however, does not absolve the University management of its responsibility of carrying out a fair selection process”
Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology (SKUAST) has reportedly selected some allegedly ineligible candidates for the post of Assistant Professor/Junior Scientists and Associate Professor, apparently in violation of the UGC and ICAR Regulations.
As per report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), it has been revealed that in SKUAST-J, 31 Assistant Professors/ Junior Scientists and 13 SMSs were appointed between the year 2011 and 2017. Out of the 31 Assistant Professors/ Junior Scientists, seven did not possess the minimum eligibility of NET.
“The selection committee had recommended these cases subject to obtaining certificates from the candidates that their PhD degree was as per UGC regulations, 2009. The requisite certificates, though called for (December 2021) were neither produced to audit nor available on record,” reads the CAG report, adding that in eight out of 44 appointments, the representative from State Government was not present in the meeting of the Selection Committee. Thus, the oversight mechanism of Government was not availed by SKUAST-J in respect of these appointments.
Audit further noticed that the Agriculture Universities had not specified any norm regarding the minimum number of applications required for holding an interview. Records showed that in 299 cases, interviews were conducted when applications received were less than three and in eight cases interviews were conducted when there was only one candidate.
The Registrar SKUAST-J stated that Screening Committees had declared the candidates eligible.
“Shifting the onus to the Screening Committee however, does not absolve the University management of its responsibility of carrying out a fair selection process,” observed the CAG, adding that remedial measures suggested by audit regarding the minimum number of application forms required for holding interview for ensuring adequate competition would be taken after seeking approval of the competent authority.
It highlighted that for appointment of Assistant Professors/ Junior Scientists in universities/ colleges/institutions, UGC and ICAR Regulations specify a qualification of master’s degree with additional qualification of National Eligibility Test (NET)/ State Level Eligibility Test (SLET). Candidates who were awarded PhD degree in compliance with UGC Regulation, 2010 were exempted from the qualification of NET/ SLET. A Selection Committee with the Vice Chancellor as Chairman, two experts from outside the University and one representative from the State Government not below the rank of Additional Secretary was to recommend appointment of Assistant Professors/ Junior Scientists.
Meanwhile, requirement of eight years’ experience as Assistant Professor for direct appointment to the post of Associate Professor in accordance with UGC regulations, 2010 was belatedly adopted by the Agriculture Universities.
“Before such adoption, Statutes and notifications of Universities had specified teaching experience of only seven years. UGC regulations and University statutes stipulate that previous regular service as Assistant Professor or in an equivalent post should be counted for direct recruitment to the post of Associate Professor,” it reads, adding, “Time spent on acquiring PhD and as guest lecturer shall not qualify for being counted as teaching experience. Further, previous ad hoc service of more than one-year duration can be counted provided the incumbent is selected to the permanent post in continuation of ad hoc or temporary service without any break.”
Audit noticed that in respect of six Associate Professors (SKUAST-J: 04, SKUAST-K: 02) appointed between January 2004 and November 2015, time spent on acquiring PhD, service rendered as guest lecturer, adhoc/ consolidated service and as visiting scientist was included in teaching experience of seven/ eight years required for appointment of Associate Professors.
Registrar SKUAST-J stated that due to the dearth of required faculty, the screening cum evaluation committee had declared these candidates eligible on the basis of supporting documents provided by them. Assistant Registrar (GAD) SKUAST-K stated that the candidates were declared provisionally eligible by the then Competent Authority.