An IIT-Guwahati professor, who has spoken out against alleged corruption in the institution, has been ordered to go on “compulsory retirement” by the institute’s Board of Governors on grounds of “misconduct”.
Brijesh Rai, assistant professor in Electronics and Electrical Engineering (EEE) Department, received the order on January 1. The following day, he received an order asking him to vacate residential quarters on the campus by January 31.
While IIT-G director Prof T G Sitharam said the Board of Governors and inquiry committees investigating the matter gave “ample opportunities to Dr Rai to defend himself and considered all representations from Dr Rai on this matter before taking a decision”, Rai, who is not on campus currently, said he never got a “fair chance” to defend himself.
Stating that he will challenge the decision in court, Rai said: “The system has failed me. These days anyone who talks about transparency is labelled ‘anti-national’, ‘Communist’.”
In an email to The Indian Express, Prof Sitharam stated: “The Board of Governors has imposed the penalty of compulsory retirement on Dr Rai. The investigation of charges…were proven to be true and the Board imposed the penalty of compulsory retirement…”
A native of Uttar Pradesh, Rai (41) joined IIT-G in 2011. He has received four showcause notices since 2017 and has had three disciplinary proceedings against him at IIT-G. There were different charges each time.
His tussle with the administration started in 2015 when, through an RTI, he highlighted that a faculty member was allegedly aiding a student of EEE department in unscrupulously attaining his degree despite having left the institute after one academic year. “He was working in Bihar. While my complaint prevented him from getting the degree, the professor who facilitated it was not charged,” Rai said.
In 2017, he alleged there was “corruption in staff recruitment” in a project in which IIT-G had teamed up with ISRO, which led to the first showcause notice. “They (also) filed other baseless charges against me — one, regarding an altercation with a fellow professor, and another about dereliction of duty — I was apparently shirking responsibilities,” Rai said.
These charges form the three grounds on which Rai has been asked to retire: writing an email complaint to ISRO and not “maintaining the channel of official protocol”, “altercation” with Dr B Anand and “dereliction of duty” by “not performing assigned academic duties, including not submitting examination grades thereby delaying the results of the students”.
Rai said, “The charge is that I put out information about the ISRO project in ‘public domain’. How can writing an email to ISRO, which is part of the project, be ‘public domain’? In September 2017, I had an argument with a colleague, Prof Anand…. It was a verbal exchange, but they alleged that I ‘manhandled’… beat him up. In August 2017, I did not take a tutorial for one student because they were deliberately piling an unfair amount of work on me. These are all unrelated charges to justify dismissing me.”
In May 2019, Rai filed a PIL against a Shiv temple being built on campus, calling it against the “secular nature of an educational institution”.
Sitharam wrote in the email: “The charges against Dr Rai, including misconduct and serious disciplinary violations, have been proved…after investigating the matter in a transparent manner as per statutory processes. There is no question of this being illegal.”
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