An external interviewer wrote to the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, stating irregularities in the selections made to the vacant position.

Collage of MB Rajesh and wife Ninitha
news Controversy Saturday, February 06, 2021 - 20:09

The appointment of R Ninitha, wife of former CPI(M) Member of Parliament MB Rajesh, as an assistant professor in the Department of Malayalam at the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit, Kalady, has sparked a row, after three of the interviewers wrote to the university citing irregularities in the selection.

Umer Tharamel, Head of the Department of Malayalam and Kerala Studies at Calicut University, and two other subject matter experts, who interviewed Ninitha, questioned the university’s ‘rank list’ where Ninitha came first under the Muslim Reservation category.

On his social media page, Ummer also wrote that this was his “first experience where the rank list went topsy turvy”. 

On January 21, 2021, a seven member board chaired by the Vice Chancellor interviewed five candidates for filling the vacant post. Out of these, three interviewers, including Ummer, were roped in from other universities. 

Ummer and his two colleagues allege that the rank list published by the university, in which Ninitha ranks first, does not correspond with the marks awarded to the candidate. 

“An employee who has no teaching experience or significant publications at the college / university level knows that he or she has become number one on the list, surpassing the two or more top candidates in front of him or her, and has decided to make an appointment in the last syndicate. As subject matter experts appointed by the University, let us prove that this decision and appointment is wrong and contrary to University ethics,” the letter read. 

The letter even asks why the board needed subject matter experts suggested by the University Grants Commission (UGC), if the university authorities were to make appointments by themselves. 

The selection process 

It was in 2019 that the university released a notification calling out to applicants to fill up vacant posts. Out of 80 applicants, a team comprising the Malayalam Head of the Department and two syndicate members vetted the applicants and shortlisted eight candidates. Out of these, five candidates, including Ninitha, were eligible under the Muslim Reservation category. 

All of these candidates had an index score of above 60, which is the minimum score required to be eligible for the position. The scores are calculated based on the candidate's previous qualifications including degree rank and marks, PhD and MPhil qualification, papers presented at seminars, papers published etc. 

Following this the interviews were conducted and the rank list was published, which soon sparked a row. Ninitha had joined the Department of Malayalam at the university on Wednesday. 

University denies foul play

Speaking to TNM, Dr Lissy Mathew,  Malayalam Head of the Department, insisted that the entire process was transparent with no scope for irregularities. 

“Following the interview by the seven member panel, each of the interviewer's wrote their scores in sealed papers and submitted them. No interviewer knows what their peers scored for the specific candidates. These sealed envelopes are then sent to the Vice Chancellor’s officer where the scores are added and a list prepared. This list is sent to the university syndicate which then announces the results. So how can the letter state that the rank list contradicts the marks awarded?,” she says. 

She also alleged that the controversy was politically motivated right before the state assembly elections. “Even before the university announced the rank list, there were posts on social media which said that MB Rajesh’s wife was squeezed into the vacant position at the university despite not being eligible for the post,” she adds.

‘Ninitha was blackmailed to not take up the position,’ MB Rajesh 

Reacting to the controversy, MB Rajesh said that there were prior attempts to thwart Ninita from getting the position including a false complaint to the university that she had not got her Ph.D.

He also added a day before joining, the letter written by subject experts was given to Ninitha. "On January 31st night, the letter was given to her by a third party who told her that they wanted her to not join the post. And if she didn't back out, the letter would be made public, causing her embarrassment."

Rajesh asked why the letter was given to Ninitha and what the intention was. "How did this third person get the letter? Why was this person being used to exert pressure on her?" he asked. He also questioned why the letter said that the three experts had 'decided' on the marks, when they are supposed to give marks individually and in a confidential manner.

The former CPI(M) MP also alleged that one of the shortlisted candidates, who did not get the position, was close to a subject matter expert and the student of another expert, insinuating that this was an attempt to secure the post for the said candidate.

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