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Apr 09, 2021

IIAS Saga Takes Ugly Turn as Top Functionaries Issue Statement Against Director

The duo also raised objections to the procedure followed by the one-man committee and alleged that there is complete constitutional collapse in the IIAS.
The IIAS campus in Shimla. Photo: Simbu123/Wikimedia Commons

The battle between Indian Institute of Advanced Study (IIAS) director Makarand Paranjape and chairperson Kapil Kapoor and vice chairperson Chaman Lal Gupta has taken an ugly turn.

The two on Friday, April 9, issued a joint statement attacking Paranjape having no understanding of the memorandum of association (MoA) under which the Institute is run.

Kapoor and Gupta said the report of the one-man enquiry committee has not been made public, yet Paranjape claims he has been exonerated. The duo also raised objection with the procedure followed by the one-man committee. They alleged there is complete constitutional collapse in the IIAS.

The statement begins:

Ignoring all the abuse that the director has been hurling at us in speech and in writing, we take up the substantial issues raised in the news report:

(1) We are not ‘ranged’ against Makarand Paranjape – we have no cause to, as we are nominated by the Government of India as eminent ‘scholars’, ‘academicians’, ‘educationists’, while the director came through an application and an interview whose job is to administer the Institute and as ‘principal executive officer’ to ‘execute’ policies and decisions of the governing body.

All that we have been trying to do is to enforce the rule of law enshrined in the IIAS MoA, while the director thinks that as ‘principal executive officer’ he is not amenable to the MoA. Our advisories are seen by the director as ‘interference’. With scant regard for rules and procedures, he has been actually absent from the headquarter for almost 280 days which means that he has been only infrequently participating in the presentations by fellows – the core academic activity of the Institute. When told that he needs to abide by the rules and take permission and report rejoining, he questioned our authority and we were informed that the director is “a self-governing officer”!

He created a myth that it was a personal fight between officials while in fact it was a conflict between the director and the MoA.

(2) The director dismisses the positions of the chairman and vice-chairman as ‘honorary’ posts and therefore of no value. He ignores rules 48, 50 and 54 which explicitly instruct the director to act under “the guidance, supervision and control of the chairman”. He was selected by a selection committee chaired by the then chairperson and his appointment letter was signed and issued by the present chairman, and yet he says that these honorary posts have no executive powers.

A cursory reading through the MoA makes it clear that this is a governing body-run Institute and the governing body is represented by its highest officials the chairman and the vice-chairman.

The governing body meets four times a year and in the interregnum between one meeting and the other, the chairman is empowered to take decisions and act on behalf of the governing body and vides rule 48, the actions taken by him are reported to the “next meeting of the governing body for information”.

Also read: How Meritorious and Inclusive Are Our Institutions of Higher Education?

He notes that no governing body meeting was held after 2020 February meeting. This happened seemingly because some decisions were unpleasant for him and so he did not notify the minutes. And as in COVID-conditions, physical meetings could not materialise and at least thrice our efforts to organise online meetings were obstructed by him by not clearing the official agenda and keeping the file with himself since September 3.

As the chairman and the governing body did not have any office or apparatus to hold even web meetings, the chairman and the vice-chairman had to take recourse to oral consultations and email-connectivity to refer the issues to honourable members and for “business necessary”, took recourse to rule 38 to resolve issues by circulation and this included the serving of a charge-sheet by the governing body on the director for administrative, academic and financial acts of omission and commission.

The charge-sheet has not been replied and though a judicial inquiry into the charges was requested nothing happened. The one-man fact-finding committee set up by the ministry did not go into the charges that remain unanswered.

Three times the governing body unanimously adopted resolutions, with the director alone dissenting or not responding, in accordance with the stipulations of rule 38: (i) setting aside the director’s order to repatriate the secretary, (ii) serving the charge-sheet on the director, (iii) debarring him from deducting MSP from the secretary’s salary and depositing the secretary’s contributory pension and PF amounts to his parent office, the conserved military command. Paranjape did not implement them. On behalf of governing body, we reported his acts of defiance time and again to the Ministry but to no avail.

The director did not want the governing body meeting to be held because he knows there are no takers for his point of view. He did try once or twice to garner support of one or two members but failed. There are 16 members in the governing body – very senior officers or academics nominated by the government.

From the beginning, we tried to put some systems in place to bring objectivity and transparency and eliminate whimsicality in the selection of fellows, invitations to scholars, selection or proposals of academic events, clearance of research projects and the review process of the fellows’ work: all these initiatives were rejected/ignored by the director as ‘interference’ and as ’efforts to take over the running of the institute’. All this is on record and any honest academic audit or inquiry will establish this.

The ministry had asked the director to reply to the charges of financial irregularities highlighted by the secretary, when the ministry sought from him the ground report. As the director’s response to the ‘turn of events’ (submitted by the secretary) was not found satisfactory, the ministry subsequently set up a one-man fact-finding committee with professor K.K. Agarwal as the inquiry officer.

The findings have not been made public though the director claims that he has been exonerated. We objected to the procedure followed by K.K. Agarwal as it was a unilateral inquiry as the secretary was not asked for any documents, and the inquiry officer interacted only with the director and despite requests did not meet any member of the governing body or the vice-chairman or the chairman. It appears he avoided meeting us physically or through web interaction.

We stand by our assertion that financial irregularities were committed and and an audit by a central agency, a certification audit be ordered to clear the air. The annual report, including the certification audit for 2019-2020 was not shared with us or the finance committee – and we are not sure that the annual report has been prepared for 2020-2021.

Also read: IIM Calcutta Director Anju Seth, Engaged In Turf War With Administration, Resigns

Finally, between April 1, 2020-March 31, 2021, there is complete constitutional collapse in the IIAS, Shimla.

The Institute has three statutory committees which assess and recommend the academic events, activities, select fellows and approve the financial expenses involved. These committees are:

    1. The Academic Committee (it is to meet twice a year)
    2. The Fellowship Award Committee (it is to meet twice a )
    3. The Finance Committee (it has a Financial Adviser from the Ministry as a member (it meets 4 times a year).

In 2020-2021, not a single meeting has taken place. This is dereliction of statutory duty and as a result, now all power is concentrated in the hands of the director.

Besides the office of the secretary (who provided checks and balances in finance) has been rendered completely dysfunctional and the result is that the director enjoys unchecked power.

Someone someday must look into this subversion and destruction of a national institution.

We have recently brought this also to the attention of the ministry.

– Kapil Kapoor and Chaman Lal Gupta

Akshaya Mukul is a Delhi-based journalist and author of Gita Press and the Making of Hindu India.

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