Why Thampu is the worst thing to happen to St Stephen's College

With 20 court cases involving him, he is one of the most litigated-against principals in the country.

 |  3-minute read |   01-04-2015
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When I was a student at St Stephen's College, Dr Anil Wilson was principal. He was a no-nonsense and strict leader but he was never vindictive. He didn't go out of his way to humiliate and crush people who spoke up or expressed disagreement with decisions of the management. And now we have Valson Thampu. With 20 court cases involving him and his actions, he is one of the most litigated-against principals in the country. His six years at St Stephen's have been the most controversial years in the history of the college.

I have unfortunately had to get involved in cases against Thampu ever since 2009. This was when I took a stand against him in court; the case was by Dr Frank (former vice principal of St Stephen's) challenging Thampu's qualifications, in particular his PhD in theology from the Allahabad Agricultural Institute. According to Thampu's opponents his degree was in an unrecognised discipline. Thampu promptly got a disciplinary case instituted against Frank. Frank has always stated in court that the disciplinary case was done as a counter to the qualifications case and was aimed at forcing him to withdraw the case against Thampu. Fortunately for Frank, the Delhi High Court came to his rescue and he still continues his work in the college, and his qualifications case is still very much alive, awaiting final adjudication by the Division Bench.

Another one of the more publicised cases against him was by the deputy librarian who alleged that she had been victimised by Thampu for raising her voice and seeking action against the sexual harassment she faced in the college by a coworker. Then there was an unpleasant legal battle between him and the current Delhi University Teachers' Association (DUTA) president, Nandita Narain (who is also a former teacher of the college). Narain had been misquoted in a media article about certain comments she allegedly made against Thampu, which prompted him to bring disciplinary action against her.

vthampu_040115103639.jpg Valson Thampu, principal, St Stephen's College, New Delhi.

There have been several other cases by students and employees of the college against him right from actions related to admissions to those of employee services. Students (non-Christian students) have also challenged the mandatory imposition of attendance at assemblies where Thampu has preached systematically from the Bible.

But what I find to be the most shocking of all is his complete lack of compassion. What pleasure can one derive out of going after daily workers, mess stewards and administrative workers? He has not even spared the children. There was one case where he tried to implicate a minor in a criminal case so much so that he was severely reprimanded by the Juvenile Justice Court.

And now for the latest addition to his long list of victims - he has decided to pick on a student for running an online independent magazine. What was his crime? He published an interview with Thampu without his approval of the text. You cannot, just cannot, curtail the right to free speech and attempt to ruin someone's entire academic career - especially when no defamatory or derogatory statements have been made. His action has evoked criticism from senior alumni members as well as the former election commissioner, SY Quraishi.

The point is that Thampu has ruined the culture and quality of the college. Students, staff and teachers have been protesting against him for years now but few can actually stand up to him. For those who cannot bear his intolerance and dominant nature, the courts remain their only option. Time will only tell whether Thampu's tally will increase to 21.


Sunil J Mathew Sunil J Mathew

The writer is an alumnus of St Stephen’s and Supreme Court advocate.

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