An Indian court has upheld the sacking of a professor charged with foul-mouthing Indian gods and also making obscene comments on some girl students.
He had tried to commit suicide outside the office of Chief Justice in Bombay in western India four months ago protesting delay in the hearing of his case. He was in dire financial straits, he said then. His petition had been pending for over ten years.
But his desperation did not seem to have impressed Justice Chandrachud one bit. He dismissed Kalse's petition, saying, "It is not appropriate for a professor to make such remarks against students in the classroom."
Vaijnath Kalse was the head of department of Marathi literature at Gogate college in Ratnagiri in Maharashtra when he was compulsorily retired, back in 1997.
That followed complaints of two types. One was that he used to make fun of Hindu gods while praising demons. Also another section alleged that he would make indecent comments against girls.
According to the reply filed by the Bombay University in the High Court, Kalse was allegedly in the habit of saying, "Prabhu Ram was a thief and Ravan was a decent person," and "Shivaji Maharaj was very unjust and he treated the weaker sections of society with contempt."
Authors critical of king Shivaji have been attacked by rightwing activists in the state, and Lord Ram is a much revered figure, what with an upsurge in Hindu rightwing sentiments in the entire country.
Ram is the hero of the wildly popular Hindu epic Ramayan and Ravan is the demon king who is vanquished by Ram. But there are some Non-Brahmin movements which say Ravan was a noble figure, unjustly vilified by the Brahmin mainstream.
Actually a Chief Minister of a southern state has lashed out at Ram on different occasions on various counts and got away with it. But in Maharashtra it is a different story altogether.
Naturally complaints that Kalse was speaking ill of Ram or Shivaji invite swift retribution. His college management initiated a departmental inquiry against Kalse which found him guilty. He was subsequently dismissed from the job.
Kalse challenged his dismissal before the college tribunal. The tribunal rejected his appeal but, considering Kalse's seniority, it directed the college to ask him to take compulsory retirement.
Kalse moved the HC the same year, but the case did not come up for hearing for about 12 years owing to technical reasons.
During this period, Kalse attempted suicide twice. Once he jumped in front of the Governor's car. On April 10 this year, he consumed insecticide outside the Chief Justice's chamber but was saved and arrested.
After coming to know of his situation, the state governor had directed the university to pay him interim pension, and the professor received Rs.5 lakh as a result.
But the court has proved less sympathetic and refused to overturn the varsity decision. So now Kalse has to return the Rs. 5 lakh - for it was clearly stated at the time the money was sanctioned that he would have to return it to the university if the court ruling went against him.