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HC quashes IIT dir re-appointment

In a development which educationists term “unprecedented” in the over 50-years history of the prestigious IITs’ , the Madras High Court set aside the re-appointment of the IIT-Madras Director, MS Ananth for a second term, reports MR Venkatesh.

india Updated: Dec 23, 2008 20:32 IST
MR Venkatesh
MR Venkatesh
Hindustan Times

In a development which educationists term “unprecedented” in the over 50-years history of the prestigious Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs’), the Madras High Court on Tuesday set aside the re-appointment of the IIT-Madras Director, MS Ananth for a second term.

Allowing a ‘writ of quo-warranto’, asking in what capacity Mr Ananth continued in that post since the extension he got last year, a Single Judge of the High Court, Mr. Justice K Chandru held that the re-appointment in the present IIT Director’s case was unsustainable as the superannuation principle will not apply in this case.

Mr Ananth, a brilliant chemical engineer by profession with a Ph.D. from the University of Florida, USA, who has been in IIT-M faculty since 1972 had been Director of IIT since 2001. The tenure is usually for a period of five years, but extendable. In June 2007, the Union Ministry of Human Resources Development (HRD) re-appointed Mr. Ananth as Director.

The extension given to Mr. Ananth, seen by many former IITians’ as not just a “great teacher, but also a visionary for the growth of IIT-Madras”, was ironically challenged by an IIT alumnus, Dr. E. Muralidharan, who alleged there were irregularities in the former’s re-appointment.

Another single Judge had earlier dismissed the petition as non-maintainable, but Dr. Muralidharan relentlessly pursued the matter and went on appeal. A Division Bench of the High Court had recently said the petition was maintainable but directed Mr. Justice Chandru to hear the case.

The Judge in his order today said the President’s Secretariat in New Delhi had communicated to Mr. Ananth of his re-appointment as IIT-M Director on June 28, 2007. However, the agreement signed between the Chairman of the IIT-M Board of Governors, Dr. A. E. Muthunayagam, and Mr. Ananth “was typed on a stamp-paper purchased on June 25, 2007,” the Judge pointed out.

It showed a “considerable suspicion” in the conduct of both Mr. Ananth and the Chairman of the IIT-M Board of Governors, the Judge said. This also showed that Mr. Ananth seemed to have prior intimation that his tenure was being extended, the Court observed in quashing his re-appointment. Further, in the case of Mr. Ananth he went out of office on completion of his tenure (first stint as Director) and hence the principle of superannuation did not apply in his case, the Court ruled, upholding a subtle technical objection raised by the petitioner.

Officials at the IIT-M when contacted by HT later this evening, declined to comment on the Judgment. They said it was for the HRD Ministry (first respondent in this case) to decide whether to contest the High Court ruling in the Apex Court or not.

Mr. Ananth, also an acclaimed public speaker and known to be skeptical of uncritical application of the reservation policy, kept a low-profile during the just concluded ‘IIT Alumni Global Meet 2008’, held in IIT-Madras for the first time. Mr. Ananth had also initiated a massive Rs.100 Crores plan to establish the “IIT-Madras Research Park” in its golden jubilee year this year.

But to everyone’s surprise, Nobel Laureate Prof. Amartya Sen put the lid to the controversy raging in the IITs’ on the implementation of the 27 per cent quota for OBCs’ from this year, when in the last plenary session he made plain that the IITs’ would have to live with reservations, and urged them to consider “what is the best we can do to meet the demands of Justice and of efficiency in the delivery of public services.”

First Published: Dec 23, 2008 20:26 IST