Plea in Delhi HC over amendment of St Stephens constitution

A petition was on Tuesday filed in the Delhi High Court against the move of St Stephens College governing body to amend the college's constitution to increase control of the Church of North India over the institution.

PTI| Updated: Dec 23, 2015, 01:12 AM IST

New Delhi: A petition was on Tuesday filed in the Delhi High Court against the move of St Stephens College governing body to amend the college's constitution to increase control of the Church of North India over the institution.

Challenging the November 30 decision of the governing body (GB), 21 teachers of the college have in their plea alleged that amending of St Stephens' constitution would result in "completely altering its basic structure and character without the consent of the Delhi University (DU)".

The petitioners have claimed that such a step would lead to "jeopardizing the very status of the college as an affiliated and recognized institution".

"Respondents 4 to 6 (Principal, Chairman and Vice Chairman of St Stephens) have mischievously sought to amend the constitution of the college thereby increasing the control of the Church of North India over the college and thereby giving controlling interest to Respondent 4 (Valson Thampu) after his retirement in February 2016," the petition said.

It has alleged that the "amendment process is tainted by a malicious objective of securing control of the college to persons such as Respondents 5 to 6 (Chairman of St Stephens, Warris Massih and Vice Chairman of St Stephens Alwan Massih) who themselves are currently illegally on the GB and aims to cover up their illegal memberships and functioning in respect of the college."

The teachers have sought quashing and setting aside of the November 30 decision of the Governing Body.

They have also sought directions prohibiting the Chairman and Vice Chairman and their nominees in the Governing Body from functioning in the body with respect to amendment of the constitution of the college.

The petition has also asked for directions prohibiting the amendment of the constitution of the college without approval of DU, Ministry of Human Resource Development and University Grants Commission.

Thampu, who is retiring in February next year, has come up with a draft amendment in which he has proposed that the principal be empowered to take disciplinary action against students or staff irrespective of the Governing Body's opinion.

He has also called for giving a major say to the Church of North India (CNI) in the functioning of the college, handing over the powers to appoint faculty and admissions to its Supreme Council (SC) and recasting the composition of the Governing Body (GB).

The amendment also proposes to replace St Stephen's College Trust, which currently runs the college, with a St Stephen's Educational Society that will have the power to establish Stephen's-like private institutions across the country.

According to DU statutes, any such move without consultation with the varsity's Executive Council (EC) is in violation of the rules and might result in derecognition of the college.

Further, it may also result in the prestigious college losing funds from the UGC, which currently provides 95 percent funding to the institution, with the remaining coming from the Church of North India-controlled St Stephen's Trust.