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Dodgy NUJS decoration contract still hasn’t been cancelled by VC, despite scathing judicial report

NUJS VC Ishwara Bhat's puzzling inaction over illegal contract that raised a storm
NUJS VC Ishwara Bhat's puzzling inaction over illegal contract that raised a storm

NUJS Kolkata’s illegal interior decoration tender, which caused the university major financial losses and resulted in the dismissal of its registrar after an expensive inquiry into the affair, still exists in its original form and has not been cancelled or renegotiated despite outstanding work.

NUJS vice chancellor (VC) Ishwara Bhat has neither moved to terminate nor to renegotiate the terms of the contract with M/s Curtain Centre, according to sources within the law school. Curtain Centre had won the NUJS rooms’ renovation tender through allegedly dubious means, despite charging NUJS at least twice the market price for its products, according to the report prepared by retired Calcutta high court judge Justice Pravendu Narayan Sinha.

The report stated that the contract was for the renovation of rooms 201 (a seminar hall), 227 (a moot court hall) and 328 (an amphitheatre).

While the renovation of 201 and 227 had substantially completed, some additional work was done around a month ago, for which the university was additionally charged according to a campus source.

No work has yet been done on room 328, the amphitheatre, which is understood one of the largest items of work in the contract.

Bhat did not respond to calls for comment by phone, message and email since this morning.

A full inquiry report by Sinha detailing how Mukhopadhyay was involved in the alleged illegal award of contracts related to university infrastructure, was released following a Calcutta high court battle that ended in late July, as we reported at the time.

According to the inquiry report of the disciplinary proceedings against NUJS registrar Mukkhopadhyay, Mukkhopadhyay only advertised the tender in a regional newspaper despite it being mandatory under the General Financial Rules 2005 to advertise in the Indian Trade Journal and in the national daily newspapers.

The submission of bids was initially open for only two weeks instead of the mandatory three weeks and the only bidder other than M/s Curtain Centre gave no actual competition to M/s Curtain Centre; the second bidder’s quotation, which came in only minutes before the extended submission deadline, was almost double that of M/s Curtain Centre.

Even the terms of the allegedly illegally awarded work order were violated: the flooring agreed to in the order was substituted with different flooring, to the benefit of the vendor and without the knowledge of the VC, by the registrar.

The university paid Rs 30,000 per day to the inquiry officer to complete his inquiry into the alleged financial irregularities at NUJS, confirmed our sources. This officer then identified numerous illegalities with the tender, which have been recorded in the inquiry report. He also recommended in the report that campus supervisor Nobendu Dam may have assisted the registrar in committing the alleged illegality and therefore he should also be served with a show cause notice.

But the Bhat-led administration is not only still on board with the illegal contract in its original form with M/s Curtain, it has also not show-caused Dam and has not filed a criminal complaint to recover the embezzled funds, our sources said.

Bhat’s term is set to expire on 30 November and is up for renewal.

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