'Threat' to whistleblower IIT teacher

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By CHARU SUDAN KASTURI
  • Published 29.03.10
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New Delhi, March 28: An IIT Kharagpur administrator has warned a professor who revealed discrepancies in the 2006 admissions that he was “cutting” his hand by challenging the institutes, triggering charges of threatening the whistleblower.

The “threat” was made before the Central Information Commission (CIC) as it heard Right to Information appeals by the professor, Rajeev Kumar, and has been recorded in the CIC’s order — a copy of which is with The Telegraph.

It is extremely rare for the CIC — India’s apex RTI Act umpire — to record specific comments made by parties during hearings.

“By doing this, you are cutting your hand,” IIT Kharagpur officiating registrar T.K. Ghoshal told Kumar at the March 19 hearing at the CIC here, according to the order.

The case is being heard by information commissioner Shailesh Gandhi.

The admission discrepancies revealed by Kumar — a computer science professor at IIT Kharagpur — denied at least 994 deserving students seats at the IITs in 2006, as was exposed by this newspaper.

Ghoshal claimed that his comment was not intended as a threat, and merely represented his defence of the IITs. “I believe that if I am a part of an institution, I am hurting myself if I tarnish the image of that institution. It was with that meaning that I made the comment,” he later said.

Kumar, who has repeatedly said he is merely pointing out problems with the JEE with the aim of “improving the system”, however, argued that the statement was very much a threat. “This was a very direct threat suggesting that I would be harmed if I continued to challenge wrongdoing that is hurting the IIT system. The threat is a result of fear because many more dirty secrets could spill out,” Kumar said.

The IITs in 2006 violated their own stated procedure for determining subject cut-offs — for physics, chemistry and math — and instead used cut-offs that were starkly different and which they could not explain.

As a consequence, at least 994 students, who would have got seats had the IITs followed their own stated admission procedure, were denied the opportunity to study in India’s premier engineering schools.

Grilled by the CIC, Calcutta High Court and the media, the IITs repeatedly changed their version of the cut-off determining procedure after it was pointed out that the calculation did not yield the cut-offs that were finally used. After presenting one procedure to Kumar in response to his RTI application, the IITs gave the CIC a second, different procedure.

Next, the IITs gave a third procedure, different from the first two, to Calcutta High Court as part of a signed affidavit. But even the commitment in the form of the affidavit to the high court did not deter the IITs from changing their account of the claimed procedure once again before a review bench of the court.