New Delhi, June 29: The typo in the bill was a minor one and perhaps not all that inexplicable.
The text referred to “Indian” Institute of Technology, Banaras Hindu University, rather than plain and simple Institute of Technology, BHU, which has indeed been given the status of an Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) recently.
But the clerical typing error had a charmed life, waltzing undetected past an array of officials, ministers and MPs till it was passed by Parliament in the last budget session.
The result: 85 IIT Patna students must wait some more to be officially awarded the degrees they have earned. For, the gaffe delayed presidential assent to the bill and forced the institute to postpone its convocation indefinitely at the last moment.
This is not expected to hurt the students: their provisional degree certificates, which they are free to collect, will allow them to pursue higher studies or get a job through a campus interview.
The four-year-old IIT Patna had set its inaugural convocation for its first batch of graduates on June 15 and published invitation cards naming former President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam as chief guest and Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar as guest of honour.
But then came the bad news from the Union human resource development (HRD) ministry: with the bill getting stalled, IIT Patna would by June 15 still be lacking the power to award degrees.
It is to hand this power to the eight new IITs and the Institute of Technology, BHU, that the ministry had introduced the Institutes of Technology (Amendment) Bill, 2010, which sought to amend the original act of 1961.
After Parliament passed the bill, just one step remained before its formal notification: the merely procedural matter of presidential assent that, officials say, hardly takes a month.
It was just before the bill was to be sent to Rashtrapati Bhavan that a ministry official detected the typo.
“Such a mistake, known as a patent error, can be corrected only by the Lok Sabha Speaker without an amendment bill being moved in Parliament,” an official said.
But Meira Kumar was abroad. The mistake was corrected after her return and the bill received the President’s assent on June 21. It was notified this week.
A ministry official said IIT Patna should have checked with the ministry about the bill’s status before fixing the convocation date. Five other new IITs, which too had started courses in 2008-09, were also to award degrees this year but did not set a date.
IIT Patna registrar Subhash Pandey said the convocation was postponed because some “key participants could not have come on June 15”. Asked who the “key participants” were, he said they were “some officials of the HRD ministry”.
“I don’t know of any other reason for the postponement,” he said.
IIT Patna, which offers BTech degrees in computer science, electrical engineering and mechanical engineering, has put up a notice.
It says: “Due to some unavoidable circumstances, the convocation scheduled on 15th June, 2012, is postponed till further notice. Students can collect the provisional degree certificate when they visit IIT Patna or it can be sent by post on request.”