Signs don’t match - Discrepancy in letters on IIT-M Director

Right to Information has an important economic dimension, as it embraces not only political freedom but also the freedom to lead a life with dignity, unfettered by domination and discrimination.

The presidential approval for M.S. Ananth’s reappointment as IIT Madras director appears to have been tampered with before being released under the Right to Information Act, casting fresh doubts on an appointment already under legal scrutiny.

Copies of the approval letters, provided by the human resource development (HRD) ministry and the President’s secretariat, carry different signatures, indicating that only one of the two can be authentic (see graphic).

Ananth’s reappointment for a second term as IIT director last year was set aside by Madras High Court last week on the ground that the appointment process violated the IIT Act. This was the first time a court had set aside the appointment of an IIT director.

A review petition against the order is expected to be filed this week on behalf of the ministry.

But discrepancies between the approval letters provided by the ministry and the President’s secretariat suggest foul play, said the appellant before the court, E. Muralidharan.

“This suggests foul play and needs to be investigated,” Muralidharan said. “It is a victory of the RTI Act that today citizens can contribute to bringing transparency in top appointments. But if this can happen in matters involving the highest office of the land (the President’s), it raises questions about what may be happening elsewhere. The discrepancy suggests bureaucratic corruption.”

Both approval letters carry the same text and are signed over the name of Barun Mitra, joint secretary in the secretariat. But the signatures differ.

Mitra, asked which was the original document, refused to explain the discrepancy. “I do not need to explain anything to you. These are official documents and I will only respond if I am asked officially,” he said.

Once official documents are released under the RTI Act, however, they become public documents.

In both letters, the presidential approval is dated June 28, 2007, when A.P.J. Abdul Kalam was President. The President’s approval to all director appointments in the IITs is mandatory since, as Visitor to the institutes, he is their highest authority.

“The question is not merely about identifying the original document. The larger question is: who tampered with a presidential approval and why,” Muralidharan said.

Public authorities approached under the RTI Act – in this instance the HRD ministry and the President’s secretariat -- are required to provide copies of the originals of the documents sought.

Ananth’s reappointment was made by the ministry and not the IIT Council, mandated by the IIT Act to appoint directors, the judge had said while setting aside the reappointment. Not involving the IIT Council, the institutes’ highest decision-making body, was a choice made consciously by the ministry, as reported in this newspaper on Saturday.

Ministry officials proposed calling meetings of the IIT Council on more than one occasion but the proposals were struck down each time.

Source: Telegraph (Kolkata)
कोई भी मूल्य एवं संस्कृति तब तक जीवित नहीं रह सकती जब तक वह आचरण में नहीं है.

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