11 September 2020
Is University of Jaffna Independent of the Government?
A leading member of the Tamil Diaspora directed me to the issue of whether law academics could practice as lawyers, with specific reference to Dr Kumaravadivel Guruparan of the University of Jaffna. By reading Dr Guruparan’s response, I concluded that his main grievance was that the University Grants Commission (UGC) lacked jurisdiction. I looked up the Universities Act, No. 16 of 1978 to which Dr Guruparan refers as the proper authority. Section 3 (1) and 3(4) of this Act state:
[3. The objects of the Commission shall be
(1) the planning and co-ordination of university education so as to conform to national policy
(4) the regulation of the administration of Higher Educational Institutions]
And Section 15 (xiii) states:
[to do all such other acts or things as may be necessary for effectively exercising any of the powers specified by this act and for the attainment of the objects set out in section 3.]
To my mind, 3 (1) defines governing power and 3 (4) defines Executive power.
If Dr Guruparan finds the ruling by the UGC to be in violation of freedom of intellectual rights – then he needs to take the issue up through Due Processes.
As per my understanding, the Doctrine of Separation of Powers between the Judiciary and the Executive is a key to determining whether or not there is conflict of interest in an Academic representing clients with Human Rights issues. Dr Jeyaseelan Gnanaseelan states in support of Dr Guruparan:
[Since he has established and the executive director of the Adayalam Center for Policy Research in Jaffna, which functions as a human rights organization, it might have irritated the enemies of human rights violations. Since September 2011, his holding a senior lecturer post and the headship of the Department of Law at the University of Jaffna was his strength in bolstering human rights in the country. the Council had the power to fight against the UGC decision that it violates against the existing norms and practice that the university academics can do consultancy and community practice outside the institution like the academics in medical faculties as consultants in private hospitals and other academics in all other departments serving as consultants outside in private ventures and NGOs]
If it were for business purposes, then law academics would rank with others mentioned above. But as acknowledged above, Dr Guruparan takes up Human Rights cases, including against the Government. These are governance issues which ought to be part of Research by the University. In Research, there are no rights and wrongs and one keeps going until one makes a discovery. Hence the entitlement to Intellectual Freedom and Independence. Not so in business. Human Rights cases are part of a research process into ourselves through ourselves, for ourselves. It is a kind of self-judgment process. They need to be channelled through the University structure and processes. The outcomes belong to the Public who fund Universities and not to particular individuals.
In a court of law, the lawyer is junior to the judge and therefore lacks the independence to judge. THAT is where the conflict arises – intellectual freedom and the obligation to submit to the Judge.