IIT-M Director Case

The Madras High Court (HC) on Tuesday set aside the reappointment of M.S. Ananth, Director, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Madras, for a second term. The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development reappointed Ananth to the post in June 2007.

This judgment, delivered by Justice K. Chandru, is unprecedented in the history of the IITs. The HC observed that the President’s Secretariat in New Delhi had communicated his reappointment to Ananth on June 28, 2007. However, the agreement signed between A.E. Muthunayagam, chairman of the IIT-M Board of Governors, and Ananth “was typed on a stamp paper purchased on June 25, 2007,” the judgment pointed out.


Professor Ananth, whose stint at the IIT M began in 1972 as Assistant Professor, was appointed Head of the Department of Chemical Engineering in 1991. He later became the Dean of Academic Courses in 1995. He also held additional charge as Dean of Academic Research from 1997 to 1998. He was made Director in 2001. He is an alumnus of the A.C College of Technology and holds a Ph.D from the University of Florida.

Mr. M. S. Ananth was appointed on January 25, 2002 as IIT director with retrospective effect from December 24 2001 for a period of five years ending on December 23, 2006. A letter was issued by the Registrar of the IIT, stating that Ananth would continue in office till June 30, 2007.

This, it said, raised “considerable suspicion” in the conduct of both Ananth and the chairman of the IIT-M Board of Governors. This also showed that Ananth, who has been a part of IIT-M’s faculty since 1972, seemed to have prior intimation that his tenure was being extended, the Court observed, while quashing his reappointment.

Further, the judgment noted, Ananth, who was first appointed director in December 2001, went out of office on the completion of his tenure in December 2006. He, however, continued to function as director till his formal reappointment on the basis of an internal arrangement with IIT-M. This, the court ruled, was illegal. Hence, the principle of superannuation would not apply in his case.

The judgment came in response to a petition filed by E. Muralidharan, an IIT alumnus, who had alleged “irregularities”.

Another Bench of the Madras HC had earlier dismissed Muralidharan’s petition as non-maintainable, but hearing an appeal against this order, a Division Bench of the High Court directed Justice Chandru to hear the case afresh.


According to a quo warranto petition filed by an alumnus of IIT-M, E Muralidharan, Ananth was reappointed as director of the prestigious institute in 2007, even though his tenure was over in December 2006. As per the Statutes of the Information Technology Act,1962, the post of IIT Director came with a fixed tenure of five years or till the person attains the age of 65 years.


However, contended the petitioner, a search-cum-selection committee “re-appointed” Ananth as a director, though such power rests only with the council that comprises the HRD Minister as the ex-officio chairman, and chairmen and directors of the institutes, UGC chairman, D-G, CSIR, chairman and director of IISc, among others, which cannot be entrusted to a delegate.

Upholding this argument, the court said Ananth’s continuation in the present post had to be seriously considered, as the term of office as specified under a statute “cannot be extended beyond a period”.

“When the Council had not appointed and even till date the Council was not even aware of (his) appointment as the director, IIT-M, it is unthinkable as to how he can continue in the office,” the court noted.

Though the circular sent by the joint secretary, MHRD, Department of Higher Education, had specifically stated that candidates should preferably be below 57 years of age, Ananth, who turned 63 last month, was nominated by the director of IIT-Bombay.

“Either he had not seen the circular or there was a determined effort to push the name of the second respondent (Ananth) for the said (director’s) post,” Justice Chandru noted, adding many persons found in the address list of those who were nominated “were either dead or had gone away from the addresses found in the list”.

The Act mandates that the approval from the Visitor of Institutes (President of India) was necessary to make appointments. “It is important to note that even though the approval of the Visitor was communicated by the President’s Secretariat only by a communication dated 28.6.2007, the agreement signed between the Chairman of IIT-M and the director was typed in a stamp paper purchased on 25.6.2007. It throws a considerable suspicion on their conduct,” observed the court.

“Though the IITs are founded by the Government and governed by an Act of Parliament, it is rather shocking that for the post of director of the institute, no public notice is given inviting applications. In today’s world, the Indian academics have spread all over the world. There should be a wider publicity for filling up the prestigious post like the director of IITs,” noted the court.

Ananth’s tenure as the director of IIT-M had ended on December 23, 2006, after which he was appointed to the post a second time with a tenure that would last till he turned 65.

कोई भी मूल्य एवं संस्कृति तब तक जीवित नहीं रह सकती जब तक वह आचरण में नहीं है.

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