The Central Bureau of Investigation has initiated a preliminary enquiry into the alleged diversion of Rs 2.25 crore, meant for setting up an Intellectual Property Rights Department at the Mohali-based National Institute of Pharmaceutical Education and Research.
The PE has been initiated on the complaint of a ‘whistle-blower’ ex-scientist of the institute who had moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court against the institute and made the CBI a respondent two years ago. In September, the CBI told the court that it would proceed further on the basis of information given by the complainant, following which the petition was disposed of.
Sources said that Dr Parikshit Bansal, the complainant, submitted voluminous documentary evidence and also discussed the matter with CBI officials, before the PE was lodged.
“Dr Bansal met us and the information submitted by him was worth probing. PE means starting a full-fledged enquiry into the matter and it usually takes around three months,” said CBI Chandigarh unit’s SP Tarun Gauba.
Sources said that the CBI was once tipped off regarding the matter by an informer, but had closed the matter after verification. However, the documents provided by Bansal have given a new dimension to the matter.
Institute director K K Bhutani said that he could not comment, as he was not aware of the CBI’s decision. Dr Bansal has made allegations against Bhutani and others.
According to Dr Bansal’s complaint to the CBI, the setting up of the IPR Department was approved under the 11th Five Year Plan (2007-2012) for promoting educational and career interests of the students. NIPER submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Chemicals and Fertilisers, demanding Rs 2.72 crore. The ministry sanctioned Rs 2.25 crore and also released the amount. However, to date, the department has not been set up.
Dr Bansal alleged that the funds were diverted and misused by director Bhutani and an ex-director on unapproved activities, in collusion with ministry officials.
Though more than 50 per cent of the funds were for hiring and training technical manpower, not a single person was hired under the project. Bansal said in the complaint that he proposed the project and blew the whistle on the corruption later, due to which he was “victimised” and removed from service in March 2013, leading to prolonged protests by students of the institute.
Bansal also stated that though the project got sanctioned in 2007, the then director of the institute did not inform him for three years, although the institute kept getting funds. Later, Bansal sent a complaint to the CVC, but it was marked to the very same official who was involved in the misappropriation.
He also alleged that he wrote to the secretary to the Department of Pharmaceuticals, the chairman of NIPER’s Board of Governors and even to the cabinet secretary, but got no satisfactory response and, therefore, moved the court.
The CBI, in its initial reply to the court, said that a verification had revealed that there was no misappropriation of funds and the director had the discretionary power to utilise funds as per requirement. It also said that the ministry had got the matter enquired but nothing wrong was found and, in fact, Bansal was warned by the institute to be careful in the future.
In his complaint, Bansal has alleged that NIPER provided wrong information to the CBI during this verification; he submitted relevant information obtained under the RTI Act.