HC advises Kasargod Central University to reinstate HOD suspended for FB post

Prasad Pannian was suspended from his post as HOD after his Facebook post supporting a PhD student who was arrested from the campus.
HC advises Kasargod Central University to reinstate HOD suspended for FB post
HC advises Kasargod Central University to reinstate HOD suspended for FB post
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Dr Prasad Pannian, who was suspended from his post as the Head of a Department at Kasargod Central University, should be reinstated, the Kerala High Court advises in an order issued on December 5. Dr Prasad Pannian was suspended from his post as HOD following a Facebook post he made in support of a student who was arrested from the campus.

The suspension could affect the career and reputation of a person, the court says, adding that since the suspension was based on a cause, that cause needs to be examined.

“Posting on Facebook or social media has become a matter of concern for public authorities. It is a matter of formulation of an opinion of others. As pointed out by this Court in several judgments, in the absence of any social media guidelines, such a post has to be viewed to find out whether it would be detrimental to the collective interest of the University. The expression of opinion of a teacher in regard to an action cannot be considered as a criticism,” the order states.

Prasad was appointed as the HOD of English and Comparative Literature in the Central University of Kerala from August 1, 2017, to July 12, 2019. He was suspended on September 9, 2018, following a Facebook post he wrote, which, the University claims, criticises its decision concerning the arrest of a PhD student. Prasad had made the Facebook post on August 11 in solidarity with research scholar Ganthoti Nagaraju, who has been arrested for breaking the glass pane of a fire alarm in the hostel.

“That an act of misdemeanour has been criminalised is deeply disturbing. As far as I understand, this is a minor offence that should have been settled on the campus itself,” Prasad had written on Facebook.

“This court has not interfered with disciplinary action. It is for the University to conclude the matter after adverting to all the attendant circumstances,” the order concludes, after listing out reasons why Dr Prasad Pannian should be reinstated in his old post.

“More than individual satisfaction, it is also a victory of democratic values and freedom of expression,” Prasad tells TNM, about the order. “Especially since this order stresses the importance of those values in a public institution.” He has not heard from the University yet on what their decision is. He has been continuing as a professor at the institute after his suspension as HOD.

“It is another professor who took screenshots of my Facebook post and sent it to the administration – the fifth respondent in the petition, Dr Vellikkeel Raghavan. In the showcause notice issued to me by the University, they mention that it is based on his complaint. This verdict is also against such tendencies of people hurting their colleagues for their personal interests,” Prasad adds.

The High Court order says that the counsel appearing for the University justifies the suspension order with various other events. Among these other events, it is also mentioned that “the appointment of the Head of the Department is a prerogative appointment made by the Vice Chancellor of the University and the petitioner cannot, as a matter of right, claim that he should be permitted to continue as Head of the Department.”

To this, the High Court order by Judge A Muhamed Mustaque, responds, “It may be true that the Vice-Chancellor has the power to appoint a Professor as Head of Department. However, when an action resulted in the suspension of Head of the Department, the court has to look at that action not from the power that is traceable for appointing such Head of the Department, but for considering whether such action would have visited with any civil consequence of a person who is aggrieved by such action. When a person is suspended from discharging his duties as Head of Department, I would say, it would be a stigma on his career and reputation. Since the suspension was based on a cause, that cause needs to be examined.”

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