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Patent scandal in fuel institute

Dhanbad, June. 4: A vigilance team from the CSIR (the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) headquarters in New Delhi today began an investigation into violation of intellectual property rights at the Central Fuel Research Institute.

A former director of the CFRI, who retired in April this year, has been accused of applying for a patent in January in his individual capacity and jointly with researchers of a private firm. The scientist is also accused of making use of research carried out by the institute for his personal gain.

Rarely has the director of a premier scientific and research institution faced a vigilance probe into not just corruption charges but also for violation of intellectual property rights; which explains the shock in the scientific community over the inquiry.

The three-member vigilance team is paying a week-long visit to the CFRI here to inquire into as many as eleven allegations levelled against the retired director, Kalyan Sen. All the allegations, significantly, were made just before Kalyan Sen retired as director. The allegations, CFRI sources maintain, reached the PMO as well as the science and technology minister Kapil Sibal before the inquiry was launched.

Besides the breach of intellectual property rights, Sen is also accused of receiving unspecified amounts from private firms on his foreign trips and irregularities involved in the transfer of technology related to a mosquito repellant, supply of slurry to the Indian Iron & Steel company and in the distribution of royalty to the scientists.

The vigilance team today confirmed receipt of incriminating documents which suggested that Sen had applied for a patent through his agent for an invention which would enable low emission and energy efficient recovery of metallurgical coal. The patent application was filed jointly with a private company, Eco Coke & Power Ltd., promoted by S.K. Gupta and his son. Under the rules, CSIR should have been informed of the development but apparently Sen kept the council in the dark.

What has weighed against Sen is the fact that while he is a mining engineer with specialisation in coal washing, the invention is concerned with the department of carbonisation.

It is alleged that the retired director forced the head of the department of carbonisation to accompany him on a visit to China and participate in an international seminar on carbonisation last year. The patent application followed a few months later.

ENDS

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