GUWAHATI: The Gauhati High Court has set aside the appointment of in-charge director of the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Guwahati, Dr PK Iyer and asked the Board of Governors to “re-do” the entire exercise of shortlisting candidates for the post of director from amongst only the eligible candidates.
Based on a writ petition filed by IITG deputy director Prof Sashindra Kumar Kakoty, a single judge bench of the High Court comprising Justice Sanjay Kumar Medhi also directed the authorities to complete the selection and appointment process of permanent director of the institute.
“Consequently, the impugned order of appointment of Dr PK Iyer as in charge Director is set aside and the authorities are directed to make such appointment strictly by the norms by taking into consideration the guidelines laid down in the First Meeting of the Council of the IITs dated May 25, 1962 and from the three options available to make such appointment, from the Deputy Director or the senior most Professor or by entrusting the responsibility to the Director of another IIT,” the court said.
“This court is accordingly, left with no other option but to conclude that the chairman of the Board of Governors of IIT Guwahati is fully involved with the process of selection for the post of Director. Though it is true that, as the chairman of the Board of Directors, would be the ex officio member of the Selection Committee, in the instant case, when the action is vitiated by bias and favouritism, the interest of justice and fair play would require the chairman of the Board of Governors, IIT Guwahati to be kept away from the selection process from the very inception of shortlisting of candidates till a final selection and appointment of Director of IIT Guwahati is made,” the court also said.
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“A question may also arise that since the final selection of the post of Director, IIT Guwahati is yet to be made whether any directions can be passed. This court is, however, of the opinion that since the decision-making process in the shortlisting of candidates and further selection process is vitiated by bias and favouritism, the entire process of selection is held to be bad in law and accordingly, interfered with,” the court also further said.
“The authorities are, accordingly directed to re-do the entire exercise of shortlisting of candidates for the post of Director from amongst only the eligible candidates strictly in terms of the advertisement and the laws governing such appointment. The eligibility, however, is to be determined as on the last date of filing of the applications which was fixed on February 28, 2023,” it added.
The petitioner Prof Sashindra Kumar Kakoty has also challenged the process of regular appointment of Director.
It was alleged that the post of director had fallen vacant as the earlier director was appointed elsewhere and there was a requirement to fill up the post on an in-charge basis. The statutory rules holding the field do not contain any provision for the appointment of an in-charge director.
However, such procedure can be traced back to the first meeting of the council of the four numbers of IITs (as it was then) held on May 25, 1962. As per Item No 7, the chairman of the council, which is the parent body, in consultation with the chairman of the Board of Governors, was to make such appointments.
It is submitted that to make such appointments, three options are available, to ask the deputy director (if in position) to take charge; from the senior Professor or; the director of any other IIT to take additional responsibility.
It is the case of the petitioner that in violation of all the procedures laid down, the chairperson of the Board of Governors, IIT Guwahati, vide order on November 20, 2022, had appointed Dr PK Iyer as in-charge director with effect from December 9, 2022.
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Pursuant thereto, there were some communications and subsequently, vide an order on December 20, 2022, a formal letter of appointment was issued in favour of Dr Iyer and he had joined on the same date.
It was also argued that in the seniority list of Professors of IIT Guwahati, the position of Prof Sashindra Kumar Kakoty (petitioner) is 22 whereas that of Dr PK Iyer is 59.
The petitioner also challenged the decision to appoint Dr Iyer as the director in charge and questioned was Dr Iyer the senior most, If not, any reason for not recommending the names of any of those who are senior to him; seniority list of faculty members in IIT Guwahati; and the details of faculty members holding senior administrative position,e.g., Deans and Dy Director.
The petitioner has also referred to a communication by the outgoing Director on November 21, 2022, by which a list of Professors was forwarded. Further, the resumes of two faculty members were also forwarded out of which, one was that of the petitioner who was holding the post of Deputy Director.
On the issue of regular appointment, the petitioner has referred to the advertisement for filling up the post of Director regularly. As per the advertisement, the last date for submission of the application was fixed on February 28, 2023.
It is submitted that as per the eligibility criteria, a minimum of five years of administrative experience and leadership qualities would be necessary. The candidate should have a PhD with 1st Class or equivalent at the preceding degree, preferably in the branch of Engineering and only in exceptional cases, candidates with Science, Mathematics or Management Degrees may be considered.
The candidate should have an outstanding academic record throughout and a minimum of 10 years of teaching experience as a Professor in a reputed Engineering or Technology Institute or University and should have guided PhD students.
The petitioner alleged that Dr Iyer does not have any Engineering background and therefore, is not eligible to be considered for appointment. It is further contended that Dr Iyer was otherwise not eligible for consideration for not meeting the eligibility criteria.
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