Kolkata: The Calcutta University conferred an honorary D Litt on West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in recognition of her social service, amid public interest litigation in the high court challenging the varsity’s decision.
The hearing on the PIL remained inconclusive yesterday and the plea would be taken up by the court today.
“The Calcutta University is conferring D Litt on Banerjee, an alumnus of the university, in recognition of her social service,” Vice-Chancellor Sonali Chakraborty Banerjee said.
In an obvious reference to the PIL filed in the Calcutta High Court, she said, in her convocation address, “I had faced disrespect from some quarters since my early days and was wondering whether I should be attending the convocation.”
The 63-year-old chief minister said, “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.”
She said, “I was persuaded by Higher Education Minister Partha Chatterjee and the university authorities. 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.”
In his speech, state Governor and university Chancellor K N Tripathi, who conferred the D Litt on Banerjee, said, “The university is honouring personalities for their contributions in various fields.”
Petitioner Ranjugopal Mukherjee, a former professor of the university, has claimed that 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 was justified to be 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.