IIT whistleblower questions inquiry fee

New Delhi, Feb. 14: A suspended IIT whistleblower has alleged the institute paid an inquiry officer six times the Centre-prescribed rate for probing charges of misconduct against him.

Professor Rajeev Kumar has claimed, on the basis of papers obtained through RTI, that retired judge Ronojit Mitra was paid Rs 5 lakh as "honorarium" to probe allegations of "misconduct" against him. Under government norms, such an inquiry officer can be given a maximum of Rs 75,000.

IIT Kharagpur director S.K. Som pleaded ignorance on the issue. "I have no idea how much money has been paid. How can I comment?"

But Kumar, who has earlier accused Mitra of being "biased", yesterday wrote to Union HRD minister M.M. Pallam Raju alleging the inquiry officer was paid in violation of rules. The professor has said he obtained through RTI the details of payments made to Mitra. Raju is the chairman of the IIT Council, the apex decision-making body for all IITs.

Kumar had complained to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) against Mitra. The CVC had then asked the ministry to direct the IIT Kharagpur authorities to look into the allegation and forward the complaint to the appellate authority, in this case the President.

Kumar has claimed that Mitra was also given free transport and hospitality for himself and his family while the inquiry was on.

Under an order of the department of personnel and training on July 31, 2012, applicable to all government departments and autonomous institutions, an inquiry officer can be paid up to Rs 75,000 for investigating a case of alleged misconduct. The earlier ceiling was Rs 9,750.

Kumar also alleged Mitra was appointed the inquiry officer on April 4, 2011, a month before Kumar was suspended.

Som, the IIT director, pleaded ignorance about this allegation. "Really, I do not know," Som said, arguing that he took over only in October last year.

Kumar had highlighted loopholes in the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) as well as financial irregularities in a proposed deal for purchase of laptops.

He was hailed as an "unsung hero" last year by the Supreme Court for highlighting the flaws in the JEE. In August last year, the court asked the IITs to fine-tune the selection process.

The IITs made several changes to JEE, which included allowing the candidates to take home a carbon copy of answer sheets.

IIT Kharagpur had to scrap the plan to purchase laptops for faculty after Kumar alleged the institute was shelling out Rs 28,000 more than the market price for each M4500 model of Dell.

But the computer science professor was suspended on May 13, 2011, on charges that he had damaged the reputation of IIT Kharagpur by making the allegations.

Mitra submitted his report last month. The board of governors of IIT Kharagpur is scheduled to meet on March 23 to decide the course of action based on the report.

But Som said "the allegation of bias against Justice Mitra was brought before the board of governors and was rejected".

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