Punia: Who gave Justice Roopanwal the authority to speak on Vemula’s caste?

NCSCST Chairperson PL Punia speaks exclusively to Sabrangindia and points out, pertinently, that the issue of which caste Rohith Vemula belonged to was never an issue that was part of the Roopanwal Commission’s mandate. Moreover he says that the head of the one man commission appointed by the ministry of human resources development (MHRD) was ‘hired to hired to give a stamp of approval on what the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime has been saying all over the country’

Image: The Hindu

What is being dubbed as a predisposed and faulty account produced to propagate the Modi government’s agenda, HRD ministry’s enquiry report on Hyderabad University scholar Rohith Vemula’s alleged suicide has drawn sharp criticism from P L Punia, Chairperson, of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes & Scheduled Tribes (NCSCST) a statutory authority. Punia has impugned former justice Roopanwal’s authority to investigate Vemula’s caste when the terms of reference of the enquiry commission simply did not mandate this investigation.

He told Sabrangindia, “It is shameful that a person who has been a Judge of a High Court has behaved in such an unprofessional fashion. The Commission was not mandated to look into the caste of the Vemula family. He has given his opinion on something that was not part of his jurisdiction.”

He added, "There were only two terms of reference for the Commission: the circumstances under which Rohith Vemula committed suicide and the systemic and institutional mechanisms to address discrimination within the University. Why did he go beyond his mandate?

 As per the document accessed by Sabrangindia that can be read here, there were only two specific terms of reference for the Roopanwal commission quoted as below:

(i) to enquire into the facts and circumstance leading to the death of Shri Chakravarti R.Vemula, a research scholar of University of Hyderabad, and fix responsibility for lapses, if any. 
(ii) to review the existing grievance redressal mechanism for students at the University, and to suggest improvements

Referring to the section, Punia said, "The Judge was hired to give a stamp of approval on what the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) regime has been saying all over the country. He has gone way beyond the terms of reference that he was expected to adjudicate on. Who gave him the authority to adjudicate on caste which was never the issue under adjudication? He has authoritatively given a finding on caste. Who gave him this authority? Under law, only the Revenue Authority (Collector) of the District is authorized to determine this issue. If there are issues or findings or questions, there is a procedure that needs to be looked at. Why did he speak on something that was not part of the terms of reference?”

Former judge Roopanwal was the lone member of the committee set up then HRD minister Smriti Irani 11 days after Dalit scholar’s Vemula’s suicide in the University of Hyderabad. The report claims that neither Vemula nor his mother are Dalits and it has been alleged that the caste certificate of Vemula is false and has been obtained by his mother to “brand” herself as Dalit to avail the benefits of reservation.

However, Punia had confirmed earlier this year, that Vemula’s mother belonged to Mali caste, which falls under the SC category. He had told Sabrangindia, “The Collector’s certification in this case was based on the data and documents provided by Revenue Divisional Officer and Sub-Divisional Magistrate, Guntur. As per the documents, a permanent Caste certificate was issued to Rohith Vemula by the Guntur Tahsildar in 2005. His caste was always recorded as Mala (SC) and with the Collector certifying this, the police should go ahead with the proceedings.”

Meanwhile, Radhika Vemula has also reacted strongly to the Roopanwal Commission report calling it a conspiracy of the Modi government to dilute the conspiracy case against two central ministers and vice chancellor of the Hyderabad Central University, Appa Rao Podile. 




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