Nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar has denied HRD Minister Smriti Irani’s charge that he attempted to “illegally” push his own candidate for the post of IIT director.
As first reported by The Indian Express on March 18, Kakodkar had quit as IIT Bombay chairperson this year after a disagreement over the choice of director for IIT Ropar. Irani, in an interview to NDTV on Tuesday, alleged that Kakodkar broke the law by interviewing a candidate who had not applied for the post and felt “slighted” when it was pointed out him. Claiming she had evidence of this, Irani said, “eminence does not give you the right to break the law”.
Refuting the accusation, Kakodkar, the former chairman of Atomic Energy Commission, told The Indian Express, “Firstly, I had no candidate of my own who was favoured. Secondly, as part of the search-and-selection process for an IIT director, the panel, apart from looking at all those who have applied for the post, also solicits proposals on its own. The idea is to get the best person for the job.”
He added, “There was a discussion and another member, not me, proposed an additional name. We did not give him any preference over others who had applied. They were all put on the same footing and interviewed by the panel. This is not abnormal or illegal as alleged by the minister. Her claim is false.”
The IIT Act does not lay down the exact procedure for selection of a director but states that the appointment will be made by the Council with the approval of the competent authority — the HRD minister in this case.
A recent advertisement brought out by the government for the post of IIT Delhi director states that the search-cum-selection panel will consider applications as well as “nominations received from eminent persons”.
Friction between Kakodkar and Irani surfaced in February when she scrapped the panel of 13 candidates shortlisted for IITs in Ropar, Bhubaneswar and Patna following a disagreement over the choice of director for IIT Ropar. The minister then called for a fresh round of interview on March 22 and all 37 applicants were invited again.
Kakodkar, however, quit his post as chairperson of IIT Bombay on March 12, but later agreed to finish his term on Irani’s request. He however, distanced himself from the final selection of directors for the three IITs. At that time, both Irani and Kakodkar denied reports of any rift and attributed the resignation to personal reasons.
The scientist first spoke out against the selection process in an interview in May, saying that he quit because he could not be party to any “wrongdoing”. Criticising the decision to conduct fresh interviews he had said, “The point is you can’t be deciding that choice of IIT director or three IIT directors among 36 in a six or seven hour process. If you set aside everything and then you decide like that, then you are running a lottery .”