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September 23, 2020

‘Small Win’ For IIT Guwahati Whistleblower as HC Stays Eviction From Quarters

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Guwahati: IIT Guwahati whistleblower and assistant professor Brijesh Kumar Rai, who was ordered by the institute’s administration to go on ‘compulsory retirement’ and also vacate his quarters on grounds of alleged ‘misconduct’, has managed to secure a small win. The Gauhati high court ordered that the administration cannot evict Rai from his quarters if he pays accommodation costs along with the electricity bill.

The matter surrounding the IIT-G administration’s order asking Rai to go on ‘compulsory retirement’ has now been listed for March 3. During this motion, Rai’s legal counsel will make an attempt to highlight the procedural discrepancies on the compulsory retirement order.

Rai has been waging a lone battle against top officials of the premier institute for alleged nepotism, corruption and other malpractices. He had moved the high court in January challenging the order on ‘compulsory retirement’ and ‘vacating his quarter’ by filing a petition. He was asked to vacate his quarter by the end of January.

Also Read: Interview: IIT Guwahati Whistleblower Says ‘Fighting for Justice Is Not Wrong’

The Gauhati high court’s January 30 order said, “Till then (03/03/2020) the petitioner (Rai in this case) shall not be evicted from his quarter No C-66 of IIT-G, subject to the payment of accommodation cost, electricity bill etc., for the said quarter.”

The order starts with, “Heard the counsel for the petitioner and the respondent (IIT-G). During the deliberation of the matter, the counsel for the respondent have placed a copy of the representation filed by the petitioner on 27/01/20 before the authorities in the IIT-G submitting that he intends to file an appeal against the order of 1/01/20 of major penalty of compulsory retirement imposed upon him by the respondent before the visitor (i.e. the concerned appellate authority) and requested to allow him to remain in the quarter of the respondent IIT-G that is held by him stating that he is ready to bear the cost of accommodation as well, electricity bill towards the said quarter.”

Gauhati high court. Credit: PTI

‘Will point out procedural discrepancies’

The court ordered that IIT-G shall dispose of Rai’s representation of January 27 by a reasoned order in accordance with the law and shall place the relevant order in that regard on the next date fixed.

Sauradeep Dey of Human Rights Law Network (HRLN), a member of Rai’s legal counsel, called the order a ‘small win’ for Rai as of now. “At the next hearing in March, we will point out the procedural discrepancies in the ‘compulsory retirement’ order,” he said.

Rai told Khabri Baba that it was out of utter desperation that he had written a letter to the joint registrar (establishment section) of IIT-G. In the letter, he made a ‘humble request’ for forwarding a request to the board of governors directly or through the chairman of the House Allotment Committee (HAC) seeking an extension on the eviction of his allotted quarter.

The letter said that the reasons for seeking an extension were fear for his life and family that he may be attacked by ‘religious fanatics’ since he had filed an RTI against the construction of an ‘illegal temple’ inside the premises of the IIT-G campus. He said his efforts to ‘expose’ some corrupt IIT-G officials required his safety and the safety of his family to be guaranteed. If he was evicted, he may be attacked, Rai said.

The professor added that he is a native of Uttar Pradesh and can’t leave Guwahati since he is a petitioner in the case for which the jurisdiction is the Gauhati high court. He said he had to stay in Guwahati to fight against the ‘false cases’ filed against him and until the cases have been disposed of, on humanitarian grounds, he should be allowed to stay in his accommodation.

Rai said that in his letter, he has also referred to the HAC norms, which say that four months are given to vacate a quarter in case of retirement. “But in my case, only one month was given. I also cited rule 14, for relaxation in any rule/ provision (for the condition of quarter allotment matter) and also as per rule 11 for cases not covered under HAC norms, the board (of governors) is final authority deciding the matter. I humbly requested the joint registrar to forward my present request/ application for seeking an extension or with alternative available accommodation in IIT-G premises for which I am ready to bear costs. But I was not given a reply,” he said.

Rai also told Khabri Baba that he hasn’t received his salary for one month and has been depending on his savings to fight his legal battle, and that precious time was wasted as he is unable to pursue any research work. “My fight is not against IIT. I am fighting to retain the quality of IIT. My fight is against some individuals who are using IIT for their own malpractices. I have no regrets fighting corruption and exposing corrupt people. This fight is for future youths and I don’t want their talents to be compromised,” said he.

Gaurav Das is a Guwahati-based freelance journalist.

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