Mamata Banerjee's prospect of getting doctorate in literature has turned into high drama
Calcutta University's decision to confer an honorary doctorate on Mamata Banerjee at its convocation tomorrow has hit a sudden bump. A retired vice chancellor of another university urged Calcutta High Court in a PIL heard for three hours today that a doctorate for the chief minister from a university that honoured Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray, among others, was against public interest.
The court heard the arguments for over three hours today and will hear it again at 10:30 am tomorrow. But it's all going down to the wire. The convocation is at 1 pm.
Mamata Banerjee could never have imagined the doctorate in literature would turn into such high drama, sparking furious debate on campus.
A student, Sutanuka Adhya, said, "I think Mamata Banerjee should get the DLitt. She is our chief minister. She doesn't just represent a political party but the state and she has worked hard."
Fellow student Ipsa Chatterjee did not agree. "I think she is only getting this because of her political influence and I don't support that," she said.
In the court of the Acting Chief Justice, the state's advocate general's argued the PIL was politically motivated, only for publicity and did not hurt any public interest.
He also said the university's authorised bodies, the syndicate and senate, chose the recipient as per the university's act.
Lawyers for the former vice chancellor of North Bengal University Ranju Gopal Mukherjee asked why the degree was being given, why there was no clarity on the decision making process and why the decision should not be seen as a case of "the nominated nominating the nominee".
A former Congress legislator who is also a lawyer explained that, earlier, honorary doctorate recipients were recommended by "elected members of the Senate and Syndicate". But that situation did not exist today.
"Now the syndicate is composed of people who are all government appointees. The elected body has been dissolved. So obviously they will go for their mentor, the chief minister," said Arunabha Mukherjee.
The BJP's position was no surprise. Dilip Ghosh, Bengal BJP chief, said, "At a time when the university is not functioning, VCs don't last, no studies, no teachers, no professors... What has Mamata Banerjee done for education that she is being given a DLitt?"
The petitioner has written to Governor KN Tripathi, who is also Calcutta University's chancellor, that the DLitt was now a sub judice matter.