Chennai: The Indian Institute of Technology, Madras (IIT-M) has "committed gross irregularity" in the selection of Associate Professor and Professor in the department of mathematics, the Madras high court held on Monday.
A division bench comprising Justices A.S elvam and P. Kalaiyarasan gave the ruling while granting relief to Associate Professor W.B. Vasantha, who has been waging a legal battle against IIT-M since 1997 after being denied the Professor’s post and ineligible persons were chosen instead.
Now the court has ordered the IIT-M to consider her, "within two months", for the post of Associate Professor from July 27, 1995 and for the post of Professor from January 6, 1997 or from the relevant dates.
Slamming the IIT-M for the manner in which the maths professor’s post was filled in June 1996, the court said, "It is suffice to observe and direct that the IIT-M as an institute of national importance should be role model to others in adopting the procedures and laws not only in selection process but in all aspects".
Vasantha in her petition had said she had applied for the post of Associate Professor in January 1995, but was not selected. When she responded to an advertisement for professor’s post in June 1996, she met with the same fate. However, she was made Associate Professor. She moved the high court in 1997 pointing out that S. G. Kamath selected as Associate Professor did not possess basic qualification while another selected candidate A Rangan did not have the required first class PG in mathematics; besides, the selection committee itself was not properly constituted.
Accepting her contentions, a single judge had on July 25, 2013 ordered CBI probe into the IIT-M appointments during 1995-2000. The IIT-M quickly managed to get this order stayed by a division bench and Vasantha’s battle for justice continued—till the present favourable order.
Allowing Vasantha’s contention, the bench in its present order upheld the order of the single judge that the selection of Kamath and Rangan and also the constitution of selection committee were irregular and improper.
"In this case, no doubt selection for the post of Associate Professor and Professor was made contrary to the terms of the advertisement and gross irregularity has been committed by the institute in the selection process", the bench held and dismissed the IIT-M contention that Kamath was chosen even though he did not possess the basic qualification stipulated in the advertisement, as he was already working as Assistant Professor in the department of mathematics.
As far as Rangan was concerned, the court said the Annamalai University, where he was awarded M.Sc degree, graded only second class. "When the university graded as second class, the selection committee has no authority to round off the mark 59.6 as 60 and held he was possessing first class in M.Sc. Contrary to the basic qualification required as given in the advertisement, the selection made by the committee is irregular and cannot be termed as good, even if there is no allegation of malafide explicitly made", the court said.
The court also referred to the observation made by the single judge that Rangan could have applied, despite not having the requisite qualification, as he had known he would get the post. Had the IIT-M made it known that second class qualification was enough, many persons with second class would have applied but in the present case, the chances of such others were denied, the bench pointed out.
Interestingly, the IIT-M had sought to take shelter behind section 36 of the IIT Act, which gave it immunity from annulment of its actions relating to selection to posts or irregularities in procedure "not affecting the merits of the case" in question. Brushing this aside, the court held that by making selections to the posts of Professor and Associate Professor by "applying irregular procedure", the IIT-M had denied Vasantha’s rights and that indeed affected the merits of the case.
As for the single judge’s order for CBI probe, the bench held that such probe was not warranted "for the lapses committed" by the IIT-M. As the issue related to appointments made during 1995-97, the concerned persons might have retired "and any enquiry at this length of time will not be fruitful".
Prof Vasantha, can’t forget humiliation heaped on her
"I was beginning to despair that I would die without seeing the light at the end this long battle for justice. The court has now reestablished that justice will prevail, ultimately. But then, I wonder if anything can compensate me for the torture, humiliation, frustration and depression I have undergone through these years in spite of my exemplary qualifications and research work hailed across the mathematics world", said Dr W.B. Vasantha Kandasamy, who had authored 116 books, written over 800 research papers and served as blind referee for over 500 papers for prestigious international journals.