Shimla-based Indian Institute of Advanced Studies (IIAS), a reminder of the grandeur of the Raj and its sense of Victorian architectural brilliance, has become a battlefield of petty personal egos among top office-bearers, resulting in a crisis of an unprecedented scale and proportion. Such has been the tussle that the campus is today witnessing open charges and countercharges of “wrongdoings” and “malpractices” among top officials, affecting the day-to-day functioning of the institute. So much so that even the IIAS’ account with a State Bank of India (SBI) branch in Shimla was frozen for a while.
As per the documents accessed by The Daily Guardian, IISC Director Makarand R. Paranjape had accused Secretary Col V.K. Tiwari of releasing the July 2020 salary without proper authorisation from him with a single-signatory cheque for about Rs 87 lakh. When the Director complained to the bank about this “malpractice”, the IIAS account with the SBI Boileauganj branch, Shimla, was frozen and an inquiry ordered.
As per the documents, Prof Paranjape had alleged that single-signatory cheques were against the IIAS mandate with the bank, but Col Tiwari prevailed on the manager to permit withdrawal of money by producing “unauthorised letters” from the Chairman and the Vice Chairman. Interestingly, the said letters were written on 2 August 2020 (Sunday) and 15 August 2020 (Independence Day).
Prof Paranjape had also accused the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of writing letters to Col Tiwari and the bank without the knowledge of the Director which, according to him, is against the standard rules and practices. As per the documents, the Director had made an allegation that the IIAS Governing Body didn’t have any record of these letters, and the Chairman and the Vice Chairman seemed to have acted on their own without the Governing Body’s approval, which is the supreme authority at the IIAS.
When The Daily Guardian contacted the Secretary, he said, “Whatever has been done is done as per the rules, with the approval of the Director in writing. Whatever salaries have been paid have the approval of the Director. I am not aware of the bank issues as this is an internal matter.”
The Chairman and the Vice Chairman, however, were more forthcoming about the differences. Calling the IIAS Director “nobody”, Chairman Prof Kapil Kapoor said, “Single signatory cheques were authorised by the Chairman and the Vice Chairman of the Governing Body. According to the MOA of the institute, we are responsible to run the affairs of the institute. The Director is a paid employee and his appointment order was issued by me (Chairman). He is not even an authorised signatory for making payments.”
Prof Kapoor, an authority on Hinduism with several books to his credit, then threw light on the transaction issue: “The financial payments are done by two officers — Secretary and the AO (Accounts Officer). At that moment, the appointment of the AO was under question. He was appointed by the Director in an irregular manner. It was an emergency situation because the salaries had to be paid. We wrote to the bank to release the salaries.”
One the issue of the bank freezing the IIAS account, he squarely blamed the Director. “He (Director) even wrote a nasty complaint against the bank officer — a young lady. The bank asked him to withdraw his complaint which he didn’t. After which the bank froze the IIAS account. Then we appointed another second signatory after which the banks activated our account.”
Vice Chairman Chaman Lal Gupta too called the appointment of the AO “illegal and unlawful”. He said, “The Account Officer was told not to sign any cheques because his appointment was not cleared by the Governing Body. The Director wanted to regularise the wrongful appointment of the Account Officer and also wanted to make him an authorised signatory which was not approved by the Governing Body. After which he made it an issue. He then wrote to the bank. The Director put pressure on the lady in the bank. When the bank called us, we told the bank that we had authorised it and Prem Chand who is a gazetted officer would be the second signatory and after which the bank released the salary.”
Gupta clarified that there was no second signatory because the AO’s appointment was wrong. “The Director was trying to act over-smart and wrote a mail to the Governing Body but he was snubbed by the body. He is a JNU product and is skilled in such scandalous things.”
The Vice Chairman then alleged that the Director was facing 63 charges. “The HRD Ministry has sought clarification on 63 charges from the Director and an inquiry is going on. We are requesting the Ministry to remove him from the post,” he said.
As per the IIAS sources, the relationship between the top office-bearers has gone beyond repair. And the matter has reached the doors of the Union Education Minister from both warring sides. Sources say that the IIAS Director too had written a letter to Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’, complaining about Chairman Prof Kapil Kapoor for continuously “pressurising” and “harassing” him and making attempts to “grab the powers of the Director”.
A senior IIAS Fellow confirmed the ongoing tussle between the Chairman and the Director, with the Secretary siding with the former. “The entire tussle is about who would run the institute.”
Sources said the situation on the IIAS campus has never been so tense. An ugly scene erupted on 31 July, with agitating employees shouting slogans. “I was witness to the whole agitation,” a current Fellow said, adding: “The Director was addressing a meeting of the Fellows via WebEx. The virtual meeting was hijacked by the Secretary, who started abusing the Director. Then he took his laptop to the slogan-shouting employees outside.”
When asked about the WebEx incident, the Secretary said, “We all raise our opinions differently.”
According to Vice Chairman Gupta, the Secretary is being targeted because he had “levelled 63 charges of irregularities against the Director on file”. He added, “Director then ordered repatriation orders against the secretary. When the matter came before the Chairman and the Vice Chairman, we cancelled the orders of repatriation as it was wrong. He (Director) refused to accept our orders and then we wrote to the HRD Ministry to uphold our orders and the Ministry upheld the orders and repatriation was stopped. After which the Director complained to the Army General. We got a call from the Army officials and we explained the matter to them as well.”
When contacted, the Director refused to talk on the matter, saying, “It is best not to wash one’s dirty linen in public.” But an official believed to be close to him said the Vice Chairman’s comments are contrary to facts. “The repatriation order was issued on 30 April. Tiwari levelled his charges on 15 May,” he said, adding: “How can Secretary level such charges when he himself is a signatory to the decisions?” The official further stated: “A 33-page reply, along with a reply point-wise from each section, was already sent to the ministry, with a copy to the members of the GB on 30 June 2020. No inquiry has been initiated by the ministry till date.”
The official put more light into the saga. “Col Tiwari was taking the Military Service Pay, an allowance permitted only in the Army, even after opting for the IIAS civilian cadre. When the Director found out, he ordered the extra amount of over Rs 20,000 per month to be stopped and the excess payment to be recovered. There were several other memos given to Tiwari. In fact, he was asked to go back to the Army. But the Chairman influenced the GB members to protect him… That was the breaking point of their relationship,” he said.
Though Prof Paranjape refused to talk about the incident, in a letter written to the Union Education Minister, of which The Daily Guardian has a copy, the IIAS Director alleged that Prof Kapoor had gotten his monthly allowance enhanced to Rs 50,000 from Rs 20,000 in addition to secretarial assistance, on which the institute spends about Rs 25,000 per month. He informed the minister that Kapoor interfered in every way possible and had quarreled with Prof Ajit K. Chaturvedi, Director, IIT-Roorkee, when he had the additional charge of IIAS, for the same reason.
Prof Paranjape, in his letter, also requested the minister to form a committee for an inquiry into the matter. “In view of the endless allegations and counter-accusations, the truth can come out only if an impartial and independent review committee enquires into the crisis that has engulfed us.”
An upstanding resident of Shimla believed that in this “power struggle”, this “great institution” would suffer. “It’s sad to hear all this. We thought things were really shaping up well. The new administration was seen to be reaching out to the best in the community, welcoming them to the Rashtrapati Nivas for the special programmes. I myself have really enjoyed the Radhakrishnan Memorial lectures by Bibek Debroy in 2018 and His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, in 2019,” he opined, adding: “One hopes the ongoing crisis doesn’t harm the institution for all time to come.”
Prof Kapil Kapoor Chairman, IIAS
The Director is nobody. Single signatory cheques were authorised by the Chairman of the Vice Chairman of the Governing Body. According to the MOA of the institute, we are responsible to run the affairs of the institute. The Director is a paid employee and his appointment order was issued by me (Chairman). He is not even an authorised signatory for making payments… He (Director) even wrote a nasty complaint against the bank officer—a young lady. The bank asked him to withdraw his complaint which he didn’t. After which the bank froze IIAS accounts.
Chaman Lal Gupta Vice Chairman, IIAS
There is a tussle going on right now. Col Vijay Tiwari, who is the Secretary at IIAS, had levelled 63 charges of irregularities against the Director on file. The Director then ordered repatriation orders against the Secretary. When the matter came before the Chairman and the Vice Chairman, we cancelled the orders of repatriation as it was wrong… He (Director) is a JNU product and is skilled in such scandalous things.
Makarand R. Paranjape Director, IIAS
The power-grab is usually accompanied by a disinformation campaign. Such authorities seem to have little interest in trying to find lasting solutions or making structural changes. It’s really sad at one level we want to be the ‘visva-guru’ but on the ground our best institutions are failing.
Col V.K. Tiwari Secretary, IIAS
Whatever has been done is done as per the rules, with the approval of the Director in writing. Whatever salaries have been paid have the approval of the Director. I am not aware of the bank issues as this is an internal matter.