A 45-year dispute between IIT-Delhi and its former faculty member Subramanian Swamy, now a BJP leader, over salary dues seems to be headed for an out-of-court settlement after the government’s intervention last week.
Reversing the position taken under the UPA-II government, the Human Resource Development Ministry is learnt to have written to IIT-Delhi, clarifying that Swamy’s case does not fall under Fundamental Rule 54 or FR 54 of the Union government.
IIT-Delhi had taken the stand that payment of salary arrears — from December 11, 1972, to March 31, 1991 — would only be as per FR 54, under which the institute would have to pay the difference between Swamy’s dues and his earnings from Harvard University, where he had taught for some time during the same period. IIT-Delhi’s position was upheld by the HRD Ministry in 2010 when Kapil Sibal was Minister.
The recent change in government’s stance was said to be on the ground that FR 54, repeatedly being cited by IIT-Delhi, was only adopted by the institute’s Board of Governors (BoG) in 1992 and, therefore, could not be applied retrospectively to Swamy’s case.
IIT-Delhi received the government’s communication last week. The matter will now be discussed at the next meeting of the BoG, the highest decision-making body of the institute. On Monday, institute director V Ramgopal Rao declined comment on the issue. Swamy, in the past, has claimed that the institute owes him close to Rs 70 lakh in arrears.
The latest development comes in the wake of Swamy reaching out to the Ministry late last year. His dispute with IIT-Delhi over salary dues has been in courts for over two decades. Swamy joined IIT-Delhi as a teacher in 1971. However, while he was on probation, the institute sacked him on the grounds that his appointment was illegal. He took the institute to court and won the case in 1991. He rejoined IIT-Delhi on March 27, 1991, but resigned the same day and demanded his salary and allowances for the period between 1972 and 1991.
IIT-Delhi agreed, but cited FR 54 to demand details of his earnings from Harvard University. He, however, contended that he should be deemed to have been on Extraordinary Leave (EOL), which meant he is not expected to disclose his earnings from elsewhere.
Swamy filed a civil suit and the matter is still being heard by courts. Meanwhile, in 2010, former HRD Minister Sibal, in his capacity as the chairman of IIT Council, upheld IIT-Delhi’s stand regarding the applicability of FR 54.
After NDA-II came to power, the Ministry in 2014, under Smriti Irani, decided to revisit the matter and wrote to Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to inquire whether Swamy’s case falls under FR 54 of General Financial Rules and Service Rules.
In December 2014, DoPT said IIT was not bound by the government’s rules. The Ministry communicated this opinion to IIT-Delhi and left the final decision to the institute, after which the BoG set up the committee under board member and Gujarat Technological University vice-chancellor Akshai Aggarwal to explore possibilities of a quicker resolution. However, the BoG, in a meeting held on November 6, 2016, decided to wait for the court’s verdict.
The Ministry’s latest letter will also have to be discussed at the next meeting of the BoG, but this one carries more weight since it has been issued with the approval of Minister Prakash Javadekar, who is the IIT Council chairman, and, hence, overrules the position taken under the UPA-II government.