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IIT board decides not to revoke professor’s PhD after controversy

The board of governors of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, on Tuesday decided not to revoke the PhD degree of an assistant professor who is facing allegations of plagiarism but decided to get his thesis examined by an independent committee of experts.

india Updated: Apr 10, 2019 08:46 IST
Vanita Srivastava and Amandeep Shukla
Vanita Srivastava and Amandeep Shukla
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
IIT,India news,IIT board
Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur(File photo)

The board of governors of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur, on Tuesday decided not to revoke the PhD degree of an assistant professor who is facing allegations of plagiarism but decided to get his thesis examined by an independent committee of experts.

The decision, which goes against the March 14 recommendation of the IIT senate, should come as a huge relief to assistant professor Subrahmanyam Saderla who had last year complained of caste-based harassment by some seniors at the institute. Saderla is a Dalit.

“The board did not agree with the decision of the senate to revoke Saderla’s PhD degree . But at the same time, it was decided that the thesis should be examined by a committee of technical experts from outside IIT Kanpur. The report of the technical experts, which will be put before the board, should be submitted at the earliest,” IIT Kanpur director Abhay Karandikar said.

The technical committee will evaluate whether the “plagiarism” was limited to the introductory chapter or extended to the technical contents also, an official said on condition of anonymity.

Last October, an anonymous email was sent to IIT Kanpur authorities, alleging plagiarism in Saderla’s PhD thesis. The matter was then referred to the institute’s academic ethics cell (AEC) for investigation.

The AEC opined that there was nothing suspect about Saderla’s own research work, including his experiments, tables, figures and inferences, and that plagiarism charges could be levelled only at introductory descriptions or equations that are standard and not taken credit for by any author. It suggested that Saderla rewrite in his own words all the sections found to be similar to passages in other works. The IIT senate, however, disagreed with the AEC.

Tuesday’s meeting was chaired by former Indian Space Research Organisation chief K Radhakrishnan, who is the chairperson of the IIT Kanpur board of governors.

When contacted, Saderla said, “I am waiting for an official communication and an update in this regard.”

Saderla’s guide and head of aerospace engineering, AK Ghosh, said the decision was very positive. “The thesis was evaluated as per UGC (University Grants Commission) norms and was even shown to the board members. Anybody can see the report. But what has happened is unfortunate. His family has been deeply affected.”

The HRD ministry, too, gave its opinion in the matter. “The ministry was of the opinion that it is not correct to accept the senate recommendation for revocation of Saderla’s PhD degree,” an official said, not wishing to be named.

First Published: Apr 10, 2019 00:07 IST