Monday, 30th October 2017

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IIT go-ahead for demotion over caste bias

The institute will now issue a show-cause notice to Shekhar

By Basant Kumar Mohanty in New Delhi
  • Published 16.09.19, 1:18 AM
  • Updated 16.09.19, 1:18 AM
  • 2 mins read
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On Saturday, the board of governors of IIT Kanpur had met in Noida and decided against a charge of plagiarism against Saderla. It was at this meeting that the board concluded that it would go ahead with an earlier decision to demote Shekhar by a rank. (Picture: Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur website)

The Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, has decided to initiate the process of demoting by rank a professor, who has since joined IIT Dhanbad as director, in connection with a case of caste-based discrimination against a Dalit teacher.

Professor Rajiv Shekhar was one of four faculty members whom Subrahmanyam Saderla, the Dalit teacher, had accused of caste-related harassment.

On Saturday, the board of governors of IIT Kanpur had met in Noida and decided against a charge of plagiarism against Saderla. It was at this meeting that the board concluded that it would go ahead with an earlier decision to demote Shekhar by a rank.

The institute will now issue a show-cause notice to Shekhar, two officials of IIT Kanpur said.

The IIT’s board had last year found all the four teachers guilty of caste-based discrimination and has taken steps against the other three, including withholding of increments of two of them. But it has not acted against Shekhar as he had already been appointed director of IIT Dhanbad with the approval of the Visitor, the President of India.

Instead, the institute had sought the President’s sanction to initiate action against Shekhar.

The human resource development ministry last month wrote to IIT Kanpur saying the President had asked the IIT Council — the apex body for all IITs — to take a call.

Sources said HRD minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, the chairman of the IIT Council, has given IIT Kanpur the go-ahead to proceed against Shekhar.

A senior member of the faculty at IIT Kanpur said that if Shekhar is demoted to associate professor, he wouldn’t be able to continue as the director of IIT Dhanbad since the required qualification for a director is professorship or an equivalent rank for 10 years.

Shekhar declined to comment. “I cannot make any statement to the press,” he said.

The IIT’s board of governors had met in Noida on Saturday to decide on the plagiarism charge against Saderla, an assistant professor at the department of aerospace engineering, who had complained against Shekhar and the three other upper-caste teachers.

A few months after Saderla had complained about the harassment, the institute last year received an anonymous complaint of plagiarism in Saderla’s PhD thesis. Saderla had done his doctorate from IIT Kanpur.

The IIT’s ethics committee found “minor plagiarism” but the institute’s senate recommended withdrawal of Saderla’s doctorate degree.

The institute’s board set up a committee of experts who, it is learnt, found no plagiarised material in the content related to the research findings in the thesis but some plagiarised material in the introduction. The panel recommended that Saderla resubmit the content in the introductory part.

The board of governors on Saturday overruled the senate’s decision, based on the expert committee’s findings.

The “board decided that (the) PhD Degree of Saderla will not be revoked”, a media release issued by IIT Kanpur said.

“A corrigendum will be appended to the thesis by Saderla identifying the text that is common knowledge and identical to earlier theses. An appropriate advisory will be issued to Saderla and his thesis supervisor by the Director,” the release added.

Saderla had filed a complaint with police under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act against the four teachers, who had then moved Allahabad High Court.

The teachers had pleaded that the police complaint be quashed, claiming that Saderla had filed the case to play the victim card since he knew he was about to face a plagiarism charge. The court had stayed any action by the police in the case.

A senior member of the faculty said it would be difficult for the court to continue the stay as the plagiarism charge has now been nullified.