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How NUJS students struck a blow vs corruption: ‘Admin has seen that students cannot be taken for granted’ [READ REPORT]

NUJS students win a long unlikely battle
NUJS students win a long unlikely battle

NUJS Kolkata had made NLU history when in 2014 it suspended, for alleged corruption, an officer of the university – the registrar Surajit Mukhopadhyay.

A full inquiry report detailing how Mukhopadhyay was involved in alleged illegal award of contracts related to university infrastructure, was released, as we reported on 30 July.

It was the students of the law school led the initiative, the report duly notes.

The report states in its opening paragraph that the inquiry was initiated on the complaint of NUJS student Payoshi Roy, which was later backed by the Student Juridical Association (SJA) – both parties demanding immediate inquiry into mismanagement of funds in the tender for renovation of two rooms in NUJS and the allocation of UGC grants.

Consecutive SJA presidents Akshat Gupta and Adithya Iyer pushed the vice chancellor and the administration to prioritise the enquiry.

Iyer commented when contacted by phone earlier this month: “We had heard some rumours about corruption in college and were continuously being told about big scale corruption happening. But we never really bothered because it was not our business as such.

"But then we saw that we [the students] were not getting most of the things in terms of infrastructure. So we did some research and found out that a lot of money was given [to NUJS] by the UGC.

"Then we found some documents showing that all of it was spent already. But that was strange because no infrastructure exited as such – sports, hostels, etc. Where did all the money go?”

Iyer said that armed with this knowledge when they first urged NUJS vice chancellor (VC) Ishwara Bhatt to enquire into the apparent financial mismanagement he moved the executive council which formed a committee led by justice NN Mathur. Legally India reported in 2014 on the report of the committee which stated that there was evidence of financial mismanagement at the law school.

“But the report stopped short of naming anybody, and this was not enough for us we told the VC,” Iyer said. That was when the VC, with the authority of the executive council, framed charges against Mukhopadhyay and suspended him for the purpose of initiating enquiry against him through the committee which has drafted the present report. Mukhopadhyay’s writ in the Calcutta high court against his suspension reached an end in July 2016 after the high court even dismissed his second appeal against the suspension.

Iyer and Gupta, who were witnesses number 1 and 2 in the enquiry against Mukhopadhyay, led the students' initiative of digging up documentary evidence against Mukhopadhyay, and collecting circumstantial evidence by actually visiting the vendors which were allegedly illegally awarded the renovation contract by Mukhopadhyay.

“We found the documents in 2-3 ways. Some of the portions were through the office and at later stages we filed [Right to Information applications],” said Iyer. He told us that a committee comprising of around 10 SJA members and around 20 non-member students collaborated to go through the documents that Iyer and Gupta obtained, and dig up evidence.

In the summary (find below) of disciplinary proceedings against Mukhopadhyay which lists the four main charges against him and its details, the SJA states:

“On 15 January 2014, the NUJS Student Juridical Association (“SJA”) held a General Body Meeting at the University auditorium. A storm of questions was raised by the students against the current Vice Chancellor (“current VC”) and Dr Surajit Chandra Mukhopadhyay (“Charged Officer”) regarding inter alia purchase of unbranded chairs and air conditioners at exorbitant prices. Without giving any satisfactory answers, the Charged Officer left midway on the pretext of an emergency. Later, the Charged Officer was found in his chambers which left the impression that he was trying to evade the questions.”

Iyer told us that after this meeting he and Gupta were motivated to visit the vendor involved, posing as new customers asking for quotations, and on this visit they discovered that NUJS incurred around three times the actual cost of items, through Mukhopadhyay’s award of the contract.

Iyer said that the UGC grant made to the college ran in several crores, even from the looks of the limited documents the SJA reviewed – with components such as around Rs 50 lakh just for sports facilities “whereas [our field] didn’t even have a lamp post [back then]”.

He commented: “The general opinion [in the university] is that [this episode] is a constructive thing [to have happened]. The administration has also seen now that the students cannot be taken for granted.”

Read the summary (PDF)

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