West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday was honoured with a Doctorate of Literature (D.Litt.) degree by the Calcutta University. Banerjee, an alumnus of the university, was recognised for her social service.
Speaking at the convocation ceremony, Banerjee said, "Intolerance is rising in the country. History should not be distorted. India has diversity of origin and we should respect that."
Former North Bengal University VC Ranju Gopal Mukhopadhyay had moved a public interest litigation on Monday challenging the university ' s decision to give a DLitt to Mamata Banerjee.
The CU has announced that it will bestow the honorary D.Litt on the Trinamool Congress (TMC) chief, an alumnus, for her contribution to social service at its convocation on January 11.
Advocate General Kishore Dutta submitted before 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.
Dutta claimed that as such it should not be treated as a PIL and the petition should be dismissed.
Petitioner Ranjugopal Mukherjee, a former professor of the university, claimed that the decision to confer the award was arbitrary and opaque.
His counsel Bikas Bhattacharya submitted that university issues and education itself are of public interest and as such the petition was justified to be a PIL.
He submitted that the syndicate or senate decision did not attribute any reason for conferring the award on Banerjee.
In their petition, the petitioners have argued that Calcutta University is a state-funded institution and will suffer a "credibility loss" if it confers the degree upon the highest executive authority of the state.
Petitioners also argue that serious doubts have already been raised in public domain over academic credentials of Mamata Banerjee including her so-called "PhD Degree" which she herself refrains from using.
However, the AG said there was no bar on awarding the honorary degree to an incumbent chief minister, and submitted that Pranab Mukherjee was conferred the degree when he was the president of the country.
The West Bengal government told the HC that a PIL challenging Calcutta University's decision to confer honorary D.Litt to CM Mamata was politically motivated.
Claiming that the petition "is out and out in political interest," Dutta submitted that "except character assassination, nothing is there."
Appearing for the university, counsel Saktinath Mukherjee submitted that the petition lacked "justifiability" and should be rejected at the outset.
OneIndia News (with agency inputs)