Delay over NSD Director’s appointment: Delhi HC hits out at govt, says efforts made to stall process

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The Delhi High Court has pulled up the Union Ministry of Culture for delaying the appointment of a director for the National School of Drama (NSD) for over a year before beginning the process anew.

It directed the ministry to place the recommendation of the NSD Society along with its July 2019 proposal — that of theatre director Dr J Thulaseedhara Kurup — before the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet (ACC) within two weeks.

The court said if Kurup’s name is now approved by the ACC, he shall be appointed to the post forthwith. It imposed on the ministry a cost of Rs 25,000, which will be paid to the theatre director.

The court was hearing Kurup’s petition seeking his appointment as the NSD director as per the selection process initiated on July 28, 2018. Kurup’s name had been unanimously recommended for the post. His appointment was delayed despite interviews taking place.

“The petitioner, despite being duly qualified and eligible for the post, became a victim of the circumstances and the delay in the process of selection, which remains unexplained and unjustified,” said Justice Jyoti Singh.

A theatre director from Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala, Kurup is an alumni of the School of Drama, Calicut University, as well as the National School of Drama,
Delhi. He became an assistant professor in the former and then a front-runner for the top job in the latter. Kurup has directed and produced a number of documentaries, television programmes and advertisements for Doordarshan, Vigyan Prasar and DAVP, besides working on the stage.

“Disdainfully ignoring that Petitioner was empanelled only after meeting the threshold eligibility conditions, which included educational qualifications, [ministry] treaded on a path of investigating into the complaints regarding the Petitioner’s educational qualifications, which was completely unwarranted and resulted in loss of time, which was crucial at that stage, if the timelines of the DoPT OM were to be met,” said Justice Singh.

The ministry had dropped the appointment process in July 2020 and invited fresh applications for the post, saying the previous NSD Society-prepared panel — from which Kurup’s name was recommended — had lapsed due to the expiry of a one-year period.
Setting aside the new selection process initiated in July 2020, the court said Kurup has “clearly been wronged” and his case deserves consideration by ACC in accordance with the law.

The court said: “The position is crystal clear that efforts were made to delay and stall the process despite the correct stand of [ACC] that the panel was under consideration and the defence of its validity may not be relevant and equally the significant reminders sent by [ACC] to expedite the process.”

Observing that the ministry may be corrected that the life of a panel is one year and if no selection is made, the panel lapses, Justice Singh, however, said that the court cannot be a party to perpetuating the wrong-doings of the ministry.

(With inputs from Dipanita Nath in Pune)

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