‘Predator’ Church out to smash and grab

via Durgesh Nandan Jha | New Delhi - Daily Pioneer published on October 14, 2009

Bishop demands ‘more significant role’ in running St Stephen’s College

Brothers in arms till late, the Church of North India (CNI) and the St Stephen’s College administration are now at loggerheads. The demand of CNI — the college trust — seeking an amendment to the college constitution for a “significant role” has led to a row between college principal Rev Valson Thampu and Bishop Sunil Kumar Singh, who is the chairman of the college’s supreme council.

The CNI’s predatory move to take over the college administration through the amendment and its purported move seeking a say in 35 per cent admissions under general quota at the prestigious college has led to widespread resentment, especially among teachers. Already 50 per cent of the total admissions in the college are reserved for Christians. Twenty per cent admissions are allowed to Christian students belonging to CNI or churches in communion with it. The new move, insiders say, may be aimed at tapping the benefits one can gain from the huge demand for general quota seats at the prestigious college, including money minting. The Bishop of Delhi had recently faced allegations of corruption by the Queen’s Mary School principal in a writ filed in the Delhi High Court.

Well-placed sources said Bishop Sunil K Singh, who chairs the St Stephen’s College supreme council, in an official communication to the college administration has demanded a meeting of the governing body soon. The agenda reads: “Amendment of the college constitution for significant role of the Church of North India (as proposed in the supreme council meeting).” Members of the supreme council, on the other hand, claim the amendment issue was never raised in the council meeting on September 11.

Church authorities reveal that the motive behind the amendment is to strengthen the Bishop’s stranglehold on the college. “The amendment has not yet been passed. It will be discussed further in a meeting to be held most likely on October 28. This has been communicated to the principal and the agenda may possibly include authorising the Bishop to appoint the vice-principal and bursar directly. Change in the governing body’s composition and transferring the crucial aspects of its powers to the supreme council, which is a 100 per cent Church body, are also on the cards,” said a source. To date, the Church’s role in terms of appointments is limited to the selection of principal only and even that has to be in concurrence to the rules laid down by the University Grants Commission. Clause 8 of the college constitution clearly states that it is an “autonomous, self-contained institution”.

Traditionally, the CNI’s role in administration has been limited to decisions related to maintaining and propagation of the college’s Christian character and not the day-to-day affairs, for which the principal has been the main decision-maker. The St Stephen’s College constitution clearly states, “The supreme council shall have control of the religious and moral instruction of students of the college and of all matters affecting its religious character as a Christian college of CNI.” It adds: “The supreme council shall have no jurisdiction over the college administration.” However, there have been numerous instances of late when the Church body has directly interfered in administrative matters.

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