IIT-Kanpur will not revoke the PhD dissertation of a Dalit teacher, who had complained of harassment and discrimination by four colleagues last year, on charges of plagiarism. The decision was made by the institute’s Board of Governors (BoG) Saturday.
The BoG, headed by former ISRO chief K Radhakrishnan, accepted the report of the external expert committee which is learned to have found no substance in allegations of plagiarism.
“The Board decided that PhD Degree of Dr. S. Sadrela will not be revoked and a corrigendum will be appended to the thesis by Dr. S. Saderla identifying the text that is common knowledge and identical to earlier theses. An appropriate advisory will be issued to Dr. Sadrela and his thesis supervisor by the Director,” says the press release issued by IIT-Kanpur Saturday.
The final decision comes four months after the institute’s Senate had recommended cancelling Sadrela’s dissertation although the Academic Ethics Cell had found “no reason to revoke the thesis”. Sadrela is a teacher in IIT-Kanpur’s Department of Aerospace Engineering.
As first reported by The Indian Express on April 1, the plagiarism charges against Sadrela were made in an anonymous email sent to several faculty members on October 15, 2018 —- two months after an inquiry by a retired High Court judge found the four teachers guilty of harassing him and violating the conduct rules of IIT-K and the SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act.
The complaint alleged that parts of Sadrela’s PhD thesis —- on parameter estimation of unmanned aerial vehicles using flight test data at low and high angles of attack —- were “plagiarised” from the works of three other people. IIT-Kanpur Director Abhay Karandikar referred the complaint to the Academic Ethics Cell, which found it “prima facie correct”.
However, the nine-member Ethics Cell’s report, submitted last November, said: “There is no allegation of plagiarism with regard to the scholar’s research work comprising his creative and technical part of the dissertation, including detailed experiments, tables, figures and the conclusions drawn from them. Thus, the only instances of copying are restricted to certain introductory passages in several chapters and mathematical basics and preliminaries.”
It said “the committee felt that it would not be proposed to consider revocation of the thesis”. It recommended that Sadrela rewrite the passages in his own words and submit an updated thesis in a month, and tender an apology letter to the institute director for his “misdemeanour”.
However, when the Ethics Cell report was referred to the Senate Post Graduate Committee (SPGC) by the director, the SPGC on February 15 recommended withdrawal of Sadrela’s PhD thesis. The Senate accepted this on March 14.
On April 5, the HRD Ministry pointed out to IIT-Kanpur that the Academic Ethics Cell had found no reason for revocation.