The Calcutta University today conferred an honorary D Litt on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in recognition of her social service, even as hearing of a PIL against it remained inconclusive and would resume tomorrow.
In an obvious reference to the PIL filed in the Calcutta High Court, Mamata said in her address, "I had faced disrespect from some quarters since my early days and was wondering whether I should be attending the convocation.
"I would have made a mistake had I not attended this function at Nazrul Manch. I feel humbled to be honoured by an institution such as the Calcutta University, which has gifted many luminaries to Bengal and the country over the years," The 63-year-old chief minister said.
She said she was persuaded by Higher Education Minister Partha Chatterjee and the university authorities to attend the function. "You have honoured me and I feel deeply humbled."
Banerjee said, "I can assure you that I will keep this honour on a high pedestal till my last days...I will never use this D Litt for professional reasons."
The chief minister said she had got offers from several institutions recently to accept such honours but declined. She said she could not turn down the offer from CU Senate and Syndicate and the VC.
Calling upon the university to work for innovation and research, the chief minister said the state government will provide Rs 100 crore to the university.
Maintaining that India's pride was inherent in its unity in diversity, she said, "Let us ensure that the history of our nation is not distorted.... I had expressed similar concern at the Indian History Congress held in the city and the participants concurred with me."
In his speech, state Governor and the university Chancellor K N Tripathi, who conferred the D Litt on Banerjee, said, the university was honouring personalities for their contributions in various fields.
Former West Bengal Governor M K Narayanan was conferred the Asutosh Mukherjee Memorial Award, while several other luminaries were also given special medals and citations. Ten teachers of the university were also awarded.
As the function was in progress, the university's counsel Saktinath Mukherjee said the senate is the final authority in deciding a D Litt awardee and anybody else is an outsider having no authority to challenge the decision.
Petitioner Ranjugopal Mukherjee, a former professor of the university, has moved the high court, claiming the decision to confer the award on the chief minister was "arbitrary and opaque".
His counsel, Bikas Bhattacharya had yesterday submitted that the issues relating to the university and education itself were of public interest and as such the petition should be treated a PIL.
State Advocate General Kishore Dutta had told a division bench comprising Acting Chief Justice J Bhattacharya and Justice Arijit Banerjee that the decision to confer the honorary degree was taken by the syndicate and senate of the university and there was no sufferance of public interest.
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