New Delhi: The Human Resource Development Ministry has given a go ahead to the Board of Governors of IIT Kanpur to issue a show cause notice to Rajiv Shekhar, director of IIT Dhanbad, who was accused of caste-based harassment against Dalit professor Dr Subrahmanyam Saderla.
Action is being taken against Dr Rajiv Shekhar because of an email wherein he complained about Dr Saderla’s appointment through a special recruitment drive.
Following this, Saderla lodged an official harassment complaint.
On August 23, the HRD ministry sent a letter to the institute's Kanpur branch director Abhay Karandikar intimating him of the proceedings against Shekhar.
The letter from the ministry said that the “matter maybe resolved at the level of IIT Council.” It further added, “Accordingly, approval of the minister of HRD in his capacity as the chairman of IIT Council is conveyed for proceedings against Professor Rajiv Shekhar.”
The board's decision
IIT K Board of governors in a meeting on Saturday decided to send Shekhar a show cause notice asking why he should not be demoted, and demanded a response within fifteen days.
The director was accused with three other faculty members — Ishan Sharma, Sanjay Mittal and CS Upadhyaya — who were found guilty by various fact finding reports. But since he was a director of an IIT branch, the assent of the President was required.
On February 1, 2018, Shekhar, in the email that prompted action against him, wrote, “Every ten years an incident occurs which shakes the foundation of academics at IITK. The curse has struck again!”
A committee, headed by Professor Vinay K Pathak, Vice Chancellor Dr APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University, was constituted to conduct a probe into the matter after Saderla’s complaint.
Pathak had recommended that the management take suitable action keeping in view SC/ST Prevention of Atrocities Act 1989 and the Amendment Act 2015.
The complaint was taken to the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) after which a high court judge found the four teachers guilty of flouting IIT-K’s conduct code and the SC/ST Preventions Atrocities Act.
A source in the IIT administration explained, “There is a process followed to send a show cause notice to the director – the government had given us a nod for proceedings against him. It required the Visitor to give assent. Hence, his punishment was put on hold. Today the board carried out the government’s order and show cause will be sent. He has to explain within fifteen days why he should not be demoted.”
Plagiarism charges dropped
In a big relief to Dr Saderla, the Board also accepted a report of an external expert committee which examined a plagiarism case against him.
He was accused of plagiarism in an anonymous email which was sent to several faculty members on October 15, two months after the four professors were found guilty of harassment.
“I was charged with plagiarism only because I complained of caste based harassment. There was delay in the truth to be out, am happy that finally it is out,” said Saderla.
The IIT Kanpur registrar KK Tiwari shared, “The Board decided that PhD Degree of Dr S Saderla will not be revoked and a corrigendum will be appended to the thesis by Dr S Saderla identifying the text that is common knowledge and identical to earlier theses.”
“An appropriate advisory will be issued to Dr Saderla and his thesis supervisor by the Director. The above after implementation shall be informed to the Board and the Senate. With the above decisions, the Board concluded the case,” the registrar added.
The Academic Ethics Cell of IIT also found no reason to revoke Saderla’s thesis since “there are no allegations with regards to scholar's own research work, including detailed experiments table’s figures and the conclusions drawn from them.”
The Ethics Report also pointed out that the institute does not have any policy of looking into the charges made anonymously. It said that there was no need to revoke his thesis.
As a general practice, the Board also asked the institute to make all faculty and students aware of the consequences of plagiarism.