Scientists move SC over vedic astrology course row

DH News Service

NEW DELHI, July 21

The controversy that brewed for the last few months on University Grants Commission's (UGC) decision to start bachelors and masters degree courses on vedic astrology is all set to take a new turn with a petition being filed in the Supreme Court on Monday.

The main petitioner is renowned biologist and founder director of Hyderabad-based Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) Dr P M Bhargava who along with two of his colleagues, Ms Chandana Chakraborty and Mr K Subhas Chandra Reddy had earlier challenged the decision at the Hyderabad High Court. But the verdict went against them.

However, this time, the petitioners are more cautious and claimed to have made a watertight petition with help from Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhusan. But the basic thrust would be on the observing the UGC decision as "unconstitutional" since the Constitution promotes scientific temper.

The UGC move, which is being perceived to have backing from the saffron lobby, had already evoked strong protests from scientists and academicians who unanimously had dubbed it as a retrograde step.

Several scientists including Nobel laureates Sheldon Glashow and P W Anderson as well as noted Indian astrophysicists like Jayant Narlikar and Govind Swarup had criticised the UGC decision and requested the prime minister to have a relook into the decision. The Indian Astronomical Society had also protested.

Unsatisfied with the UGC move, Dr Bhagarva and his colleagues started the legal action. However, the judgment went against them as the High Court said that it would not interfere with the decision making process of UGC and would prefer to leave the matter at the hands of expert committees because it would not normally tinker with a policy decision.

Surprisingly, the honourable judges cited the second edition of Encyclopedia Britannica, published in the last century, which said that astrology could be, defined both science and pseudo-science. Several scientists stated that the Court should have consulted a more recent version that has amended the definition in accordance with modern science.

The judgment was also criticised by Justice Allied Kuppuswami, a former chief justice of Andhra Pradesh High Court, who said that the reasons submitted by the High Court are unsound.

"The Court should have examined the experts at UGC and also several scientists and pronounced whether the expert committee of the UGC had applied its mind and come to the right decision. At any rate when so many eminent scientists are against the move, it should have directed the UGC to conduct a national debate before coming to a final decision," he said.

Dr Bhargava is hopeful this time. Though none of the science academies have come froward so far to protest against the move, he has garnered support from many individual scientists all over the world.

"I hope that this time the Supreme Court will do the justice," he told Deccan Herald.

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Referred by:Mukundan CM
Published on: July 22, 2001
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