THE CBI on Friday booked seven officers — present and former — of the National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research (NIPER), Mohali, on charges of corruption and forgery.
The investigating agency conducted raids at 22 locations across the country. Those booked from NIPER included the then director P Ramarao, officiating director K K Bhutani, registrar and chief vigilance officer Wg Cdr (retd) P J P Singh Waraich, the then deputy registrar Rakesh Mauja, and Professor Sharanjeet Singh. Besides, a private firm at Thorat colony, Erandwane, Pune, and other unknown persons were also booked for cheating, criminal conspiracy, forgery, criminal breach of trust and corruption.
Officiating director Bhutani and Registrar Waraich were detained by the CBI for questioning. However, their arrest was not confirmed till the filing of this report.
CBI sources said that the funds granted to the institute were diverted and used for other purposes. Certain officials of the Union Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers were also under the CBI scanner.
The FIR registered by the CBI mentioned that the accused had connived and “caused a loss to the tune of crores of rupees to the government exchequer”.
The raid at NIPER, which will hold its foundation day on February 15, commenced around 7 am and continued for more than eight hours, during which the CBI team questioned a number of senior officers and seized certain documents.
According to a statement released by the CBI in the evening, the raids were conducted at 22 places, including Chandigarh, Mohali, Bathinda, Kurukshetra, Pune, Thiruvananthapuram, New Delhi and Bhopal. “The places where raids were conducted included residential and official premises of the accused that led to a recovery of incriminating documents relating to the case,” read the CBI’s official release.
The statement added, “It was alleged that the officials of NIPER entered into a criminal conspiracy amongst themselves and with private firm of Pune for the purchase of database ‘SciFinder’ on exorbitant rates causing loss to the state exchequer. It was also alleged that the officials along with some unknown private persons and officials of Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers caused loss to the tune of crores of rupees to the state exchequer by way of misappropriation of funds, falsification of accounts and diversion of funds from approved project to unapproved items etc.”
Sources in the NIPER said that the institute purchased “SciFinder” in 2006. It was a research discovery application, which provides access to the world’s most comprehensive source of references, reactions and substances in chemistry and related sciences.
From the raids conducted at NIPER and houses of the accused, the CBI team found fixed deposits worth around Rs 13 lakh; bank balance of Rs 25 lakh; documents of properties worth Rs 50 lakh recovered from the residence of Bhutani; and documents relating to five properties worth Rs 1.5 crore recovered from the residence of Waraich.
Even as the CBI raid was on, a large number of students at NIPER staged a protest against Bhutani and Waraich. The students alleged that while the officers were involved in corruption, they had not been given their scholarships for the last 18 months.
‘Institute of national importance’
NIPER is the first national level institute in pharmaceutical sciences with an objective of becoming a centre of excellence for advanced studies and research in pharmaceutical sciences. The Centre had declared NIPER as an “institute of national importance”. It is an autonomous body set up under the aegis of Department of Pharmaceuticals, Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilizers, Government of India. The institute is conceived to provide leadership in pharmaceutical sciences and related areas not only within the country, but also in South East Asia, South Asia and Africa. NIPER is a member of Association of Indian Universities and Association of Commonwealth Universities.
The institute remained in the thick of controversies in 2013 when students came on the road and staged a protest against its management. The students demanded sacking of the director and registrar. The students also resorted to violence and set ablaze a number of official vehicles on the institute’s campus. Later, the strike ended without any conclusion.
A doctor at NIPER had even moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the appointment of Waraich as the institute’s registrar.
The issue of Waraich’s appointment as registrar in NIPER was also raised in Rajya Sabha by National Communist Party MP Dr Janardhan Waghmare on August 24, 2012.