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Independent public investigation of the improper and unwarranted divestiture of Prof. Bimal K. Roy from all powers ascertained as the Director of the Indian Statistical Institute

This petition had 2,172 supporters


On Wednesday, June 10, 2015, Professor Bimal Kumar Roy, Padmashree, was removed from the post of Director of the Indian Statistical Institute (ISI) with a special emergency order (exercising powers under Sections 11 and 12 of the Indian Statistical Institute Act, 1959) issued by Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation. He was about to complete his five year term as Director on 31 July 2015.

The reason cited by this Ministry for this bizarre decision was: lack of confidence in Prof. Roy as Director, ISI, during the interregnum as he may indulge in “propagation of indiscipline and mischief, including acts of financial and administrative impropriety”. The order (http://mospi.nic.in/Mospi_New/upload/Order_ISI_10jun15.pdf) does not clearly state the charges against Prof. Roy, except charges of indiscipline on his part in a note on `Appointment Of The New Director Of The Indian Statistical Institute’.

We believe this controversy began after a meeting of the ISI Council held on April 23, 2015, for the appointment of the new Director of ISI. According to a recent press report, available at (http://zeenews.india.com/bengali/kolkata/arun-shourie-in-controversies_128005.html), and some of the council members present in the meeting, proper protocol was not followed in that meeting. There was reportedly a clear disagreement between the Chairman of the Council Mr. Arun Shourie and several members of the Council on the selection of the Director. Additionally, the documented proceedings of the council meeting were allegedly different from what was actually discussed (as pointed out by some members of the council to Mr Shourie and verifiable with the audio recording of the meeting). Moreover, Prof. Roy was not present in the meeting when this agenda item was discussed as he was one of the candidates. Hence Prof. Roy refused to sign the proceedings of the meeting, which is an important criterion to legitimise the decisions. Since then, there has been no further meeting of the Council. It is to be noted here that neither the Council or the Ministry called for any official discussion with Prof. Roy regarding the allegations brought forward against him until the aforementioned order was issued on June 10th .

In an attempt to get clarification into the above matter, RTI applications had been filed by eminent professors of ISI, Kolkata, including Prof Probal Chaudhury, to release the audio tapes and other information related to the Council meeting for Appointment of the Director, which contain the proof of the actual discussion. His appeal to get access to the audio recording of the council proceedings is pending a decision for over a month now - which seems to be a deliberate delay.

Such a supercilious Ministry order removing a sitting Director without any consultation with the ISI Council befits an emergency situation and is totally unprecedented. Since there has been no indication of any emergency prior to the aforementioned order, this order is indicative of a clear threat towards the institute’s autonomy. ISI being an autonomous institute of national importance, this order is a direct defamation of the of the office of the Director and the Institute. Since the Director of ISI (appointed by the Council itself) is answerable to the ISI Council, any allegations should be directed through the Council and proper investigation must be conducted before taking such a drastic measure. The fact that Prof. Roy was entrusted with the duties of the Director by the Council and was nominated for a second term suggests arbitrariness of the order and raises more questions and concerns about the handling of such a sensitive issue. The emergency act, cited by the ministry to pass the order, also stands no basis until it has been properly investigated and proved beyond doubt. In the absence of rigorous protocols, proofs and metrics of ‘irregularity’, the decision itself appears arbitrary, undemocratic, and uncivil and reeks of an attempt to silence dissent and thwart academic freedom.

We find this lack of transparency on the ​ministry’s part condemnable. Professor Bimal Kumar Roy (http://www.isical.ac.in/~bimal/cv_BimalRoy.pdf) has had a long and illustrious career as an outstanding researcher and a prominent intellectual leader of Indian academia. In addition to his pioneering work on cryptography and information security, his research benefited a wide spectrum of causes specifically for the government and for the society in general. Over the years, Prof Roy has been a distinguished professor and mentor at ISI, inspiring several generations of the sharpest and the most brilliant minds the nation takes pride in. His dedicated service and exemplary leadership as Dean of Studies and Director of ISI has enhanced the international reputation of this famous institute of national importance. His patriotic contributions to India's national security include the development of indigenous stream cipher for Indian Navy and several groundbreaking cryptography projects in collaboration with DRDO and ISRO. Such serious action against an eminent academician like him without due diligence and pretext would malign the image of the academic community in our country. It should be noted that at no point was Prof Bimal Roy given the opportunity to respond to these charges against him- in fact he is not even aware of the charges. And yet the Ministry has acted and released the order, which has been picked up by the media. In addition, if contrary allegations against the ministry are proved to be true, it definitely sends a strong message of political subversion of the independence and intellectual freedom of the academic community which deserves public attention.

Hence, we urge you to ensure proper and fair investigation into the matter, stop the downright defamation of this great Institute, and this abuse of power. Following are our demands for a just and impartial procedure. Please do sign our petition if you agree, and help us stop these wrongful acts. Acts such as these insinuate a deep incivility as it forecloses all opportunities for dialogue and conversation, and we must resist them to prevent academia from turning into a place where transparency is undermined, communication is subverted, and expression is silenced.

 

Demands:-

1.    Proper independent public investigation must be done regarding the Ministry's allegations against Prof. Roy, the charges against Prof. Roy must be presented to the council, and a proper hearing must be conducted by the Council, before deciding upon the next course of action.

2.    The audio recording of the Director selection meeting along with its transcript should be released immediately and investigated by independent authority.

3.    Till these investigations are over and the Council decides otherwise, citing valid proof, Prof Bimal Kumar Roy should be immediately reinstated at the position of interim Director.



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