For more than 12 years, Saurashtra University (SU) — which is among the largest universities in Gujarat in terms of student enrollment — has not had a regular registrar. After dithering for nine years, SU finally chose a candidate for the post in June last year, but the selection is still awaiting approval from the state government.
With its main campus in Rajkot, the university has an enrollment of about three lakh students, making it one of the largest state-funded universities. It has jurisdiction over Rajkot, Surendranagar, Jamnagar, Devbumi Dwarka and Amreli districts. In 2014, SU also became the first university in Gujarat to be accredited with an A grade by the National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC).
However, the university has not had a full-time registrar since Gajendra Jani was removed from the post on June 21, 2011, following a Gujarat High Court ruling that Jani did not meet the eligibility criteria for the post. Gianni took charge in May 2007, but his selection and subsequent appointment was challenged in the Supreme Court on the grounds that he did not have the necessary qualifications to hold the post.
Since Jani’s removal, the university has had six persons serving as registrars-in-charge for a total of nine terms: JM Mamtora, Ramesh Parmar, Dhiren Pandya, Jatin Soni, Nilesh Soni and Amit Parekh.
Among them, Mamtora, the former controller of examination (COE), and Jatin Soni, who retired as SU director of physical education, served for one term of 16 days and one year respectively. Parmar, Deputy Registrar, served as In-charge Registrar for three terms (August 2011 to October 2014; July 23, 2015 to August 9, 2015 and December 2018 to June 2020). Pandya, a deputy secretary who was promoted as an academic officer, was posted twice as in-charge secretary (October 2014 to July 2015 and August 2015 to December 2018).
Nilesh Soni, who was the librarian of SU, was appointed as Registrar-in-charge in July 2021 and held the post till 4 February 2022. Parekh, Deputy Registrar, was appointed as Registrar-in-charge on 4 February 2022 and continues to hold the post so far.
Records accessed by The Indian Express show that SU has initiated the process to recruit registrars thrice in these years but has so far failed to find a regular employee. The university had advertised the vacancy in July 2013 and again in August 2015, but no candidate was invited for personal interviews. SU issued a third recruitment notification on June 27, 2019 on the direction of the state education department following instructions from the then Gujarat Chief Minister to fill the posts of registrars in 15 state universities. The directions from the chief minister came after a meeting with vice-chancellors and registrars or registrars-in-charge of these universities on June 18, 2019, records show. In response to SU’s latest advertisement, 25 candidates applied for the post, including Gitesh Joshi, deputy registrar at SU, who has served as registrar at Gujarat Central University, Gandhinagar and Govind Guru University, Godhra, among others. Other contenders include deputy registrar Parmar, Harish Ruparelia, municipal secretary of Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC), and Arvindkumar Dhaduk, then in-charge secretary of Veer Narmad South Gujarat University, Surat. A meeting of the SU Scrutiny Committee held on 9 January 2020 concluded that nine of the 25 applicants met the eligibility criteria.
Citing alleged irregularities during his tenure as registrar of other universities, a meeting of the union or executive council of SU on 9 June 2022 decided not to call Joshi for an interview for a vacant post at SU. Ultimately, the selection committee called eight candidates for personal interviews on 20 June 2022. Only two of them — Dhaduk and Ruparelia — turned up. After interviewing them, the selection committee recommended Ruparelia’s name for appointment as Secretary for a period of five years.
On June 24, 2022, the SU secretary-in-charge wrote to the deputy secretary in the state education department seeking the department’s approval for the appointment of Ruparelia, who taught mechanical engineering at Lakhdhirji Engineering College, Morbi, before joining the RMC in 1996 as Registrar. A year later, SU is still waiting for a response from the government.
Prof Girish Bhimani, who was appointed as SU Vice-Chancellor on February 6, 2022, says the university is in desperate need of a full-time registrar. “The registrar is a trustee of a university. His post is as important in the University organization as that of a Chief Secretary in a State Government. We need a regular registrar for better administration of SU,” he says. Why hasn’t SU held the post for 12 years now? Responding to the question, Prof. Bhimani said, “For one reason or another, the SU administration did not even call candidates for personal interviews after inviting applications for the post of Registrar in the past. We are the ones who mustered the courage to conduct personal interviews for the posts of registrar and controller of examinations, shortlist a candidate for appointment and send his name to the state government for its consent,” the in-charge VC said.
The SU Selection Committee selected Nilesh Soni for the post of Controller of Examinations in June last year and he took charge weeks later. His appointment did not require the approval of the state government.
“It is true that more than a year has passed since we sent the name selected by the SU selection committee for the post of secretary to the government. But our limitation is that we can only recommend and write to the government. We cannot do anything more than that,” Prof. Bhimani added. Dharam Kambalia, union member of SU, said that the posts of registrars in most other government-run universities are vacant. “The registrar is like a chief executive who ensures the execution of the orders and decisions made by the union and the position of the vice-chancellor. Without a regular registrar, the administration of the university is hampered,” Kambalia said, adding that repeated requests to the government in this regard have so far not elicited a positive response.
An SU insider said that over the past decade, registrars have changed according to the will of some of the union members. “Some of the members of the SU union remained too powerful for most of the last decade because the university had VCs who were somewhat malleable. That’s why union members have been ruling everyone out and had an incumbent registrar removed if he or she showed them the rule book. This struggle for control of SU meant that the university administration could never complete the process of hiring a regular registrar,” said the person who claimed to be familiar with the details. Another insider said that party politics had entered deeply into SU affairs. “Recently, some functionaries have started to treat the SU as a backyard, complementing the political agenda of the political party to which they owe allegiance. This means that the academic priorities and interests of the students remain on the back burner, and susceptible employees are installed in important offices,” said an insider. “In order to force universities to hire a new registrar promptly after the incumbent completes his term, current laws provide for the payment of an allowance to the registrar-in-charge for only one year.”
All the while, the university’s academic performance suffered as the NAAC downgraded it to Grade B in 2021.
Meanwhile, the state government says the selection of Ruparelia by SU is still under consideration. “The SU notification seeking approval to appoint Ruparelia as registrar is still being considered by the deputy secretary,” said a senior education department official on condition of anonymity.