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IIT-Guwahati Professor Faces Threat of Termination After Decrying Corruption in Institute

Three show cause notices were issued to the professor for sending an 'embarrassing' email to the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), highlighting the discrepancies in a project undertaken by the two organisations.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:November 21, 2019, 6:10 PM IST
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New Delhi: A professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Guwahati, is “expecting termination of his services” after he decried corruption in a project the institute carried out in collaboration with the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO).

Dr Brijesh Kumar Rai, Assistant Professor, Department of Electronics and Electrical Engineering, was suspended and is now expecting termination after he purportedly unearthed several corruption scams at the institute.

Rai was issued three show-cause notices for sending an “embarrassing” email to ISRO in which he highlighted discrepancies in a project undertaken by the two organisations.

These notices accessed by News18 were sent on November 1 and stated that after a careful consideration of the inquiry report of the Board Of Governors (BOG), the institute had deemed Rai as “not fit” to be retained in service.

The institute in its inquiry report had proved three out of four charges of “embarrassing the institute” and “misconduct unbecoming of a government officer,” and “unbecoming of a faculty of IIT”, citing IIT Guwahati Conduct Rules and CCS Conduct Rules 1964.

The report said the BOG proposed to “impose on him the penalty of dismissal from service which shall ordinarily be a disqualification for future employment in the Institute (as set out under (vii) of Statues 15(9)).”

On November 11, Rai wrote to the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD), the Visitor, and the BOG pleading his case and said he has lived by the pledge to raise his voice against corruption.

Rai claims the administration called him for a final hearing on the charges against him but that he was not given enough time to prepare his case. After this, he made several attempts at establishing communication with authorities to request for more time. “But I have been declined every time,” he said.

“I am shocked and appalled to receive the above mentioned show-cause notice. I had not imagined even in my wildest dream that the BoG will consider me not a fit person to retain in service because I reported an incident which, prima facie, appears to be a case of corruption. Every year, we are asked by the CVC (Central Vigilance Commission) to make a pledge that we will report incidences of corruption to the appropriate authorities,” he wrote in a letter to the HRD.

“Am I not a fit person to retain in service because I reported an alleged case of corruption?” he asked.

In a statement, the institute said the ongoing disciplinary proceedings against Rai are to investigate the violations of code of conduct rules and several complaints received against him through inquiry as per procedures. "No decision on his employment has been communicated to Dr BK Rai till date from the institute," it said, adding that media reports on the issue claiming otherwise "are based on mere speculation and false information".

What was in the e-mail?

On November 3, Rai had sent an email to the then chairman of ISRO along with five other officials and the director of IIT-G.

In the email he attached two separate advertisements issued by the Deputy Registrar, R&D, IIT Guwahati for walk-in interviews on January 2017 and September 2017, respectively, for the post of a ‘Research Associate for 2 months for an ISRO funded project.

The project, “Development of ESD I/O Pads for CIS/CCD Image Sensor for 0.18 pn SCL Foundry” was to be undertaken under Rai’s department – electronics and electrical engineering -- at IIT Guwahati.

The professor in his email, questioned the relaxation of qualifications in the advertisement issued on September 2017, stating that they were drafted in a manner that they could fit the candidates they wanted to recruit.” Terming it as a “case of corruption”, Rai alleged that the interviews were “just formalities that they needed to do” and that “the funding provided by ISRO was getting used to benefit selected people and not the project.”

IIT-G in its notice to Rai, maintained that the email is in violation to the institute’s rules and regulations. “The contents of the said email communication made by Dr Rai to Chairman ISRO and others amounted to adverse criticism of the action of the institute, which constitutes misconduct in terms of Rule 6 (l) of the relevant conduct rules and is a will full act of insubordination as well as conduct unbecoming of a faculty member of the IIT Guwahati,” the notice reads.

The notice further said, “Such adverse criticism was capable of embarrassing relations of IIT Guwahati with another Organization, namely ISRO and others and actually did so embarrass such relations as ISRO called for explanation and llT Guwahati had to furnish clarification to ISRO.” This communication constitutes misconduct in terms of Rule 6 (ii) of the Conduct Rules, the institute maintained.

"It was further presented that the issue of reduction in qualification was clarified to ISRO, as called for by it, to its satisfaction," it added.

Questioning the Charges

Professor Rai, while refuting all allegations against him, has cited the Conduct Rules 6(i) and 6(ii) of IIT Guwahati, on the grounds of which the Inquiry Report has called his act of communicating with stakeholder an embarrassment to the relations between ISRO and IIT Guwahati. Rai said that the Rules 6(i) and 6(ii) are based on the statement that no employee shall, in any radio broadcast or in any document published anonymously or in his own name or in the name of any other person or in any communication to the press or in any public utterance, make any statement of fact or opinion.

He pointed out that sending an email to ISRO Chairman cannot be considered as publication. This email, he clarified, “was sent to selected people who were stakeholders” and he did not make my complaint/report public to “defame anyone.”

“I did not make any public utterance. Nor I made any communication to press. It is indeed shocking that when charges itself are not applicable, the entire proceeding was conducted for about two years by now and BoG considers me not a fit person to retain in service,” he wrote in his reply.

He added that this might be the first case in the history of IITs that a person has been leveled completely false charges. “This is so evident that I cannot believe that inquiry committee members and the BoG members did not observe it,” he said.

On the charge that proves that his conduct is “unbecoming of a government officer”, as it is violation of Rule 3(1) (iii) of CCS(Conduct) Rules, 1964, he said, “the charge of unbecoming of a government officer does not sustain on multiple grounds.”

“I did a right thing to report an alleged matter of corruption. Every Indian should do such an act. How can such an act be unbecoming of a government servant? Rather, not reporting an incident of an alleged corruption would constitute unbecoming of a government servant,” he wrote in his concluding statements.

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