New Twist to Sacking of ISI, Kolkata Director

New Delhi: Following Bimal Roy’s ouster as director of the Indian Statistical Institute in Kolkata earlier this month, a petition is being circulated demanding that he be reinstated till a proper and public inquiry is conducted into the alleged “indiscipline, mischief and acts of financial misappropriation” the Central government has charged him with. Roy was removed by a special emergency order under the Indian Statistical Institute Act, by the Ministry of Statistics and Program Implementation. His 5-year tenure was due to end in just over a month, on July 31, anyway.

The ISI was established in 1931 and is one of India’s most prestigious institutions for research in statistics, mathematics and economics.

The petition, and a post on the popular social media site reddit, however, suggest a new angle to the story. The petition, which was posted by ‘Justice for ISI’ and has over 1,800 signatures, claims that Roy was removed after he refused to sign onto  the minutes of a meeting discussing the appointment of the new ISI Director. The written account of the meeting, it is alleged, was completely different from what had actually occurred in the room, and hence Roy had refused to sign the document. The posts claim that this is the act of ‘indiscipline and mischief’ that Roy was removed for.

The posts on the websites also claim that an RTI application has been filed by a senior professor at the Institute, Probal Chaudhary, for the audio recoding of the meeting, and that the reply to the application is being needlessly delayed. The audio recoding would reveal what actually took place in the meeting and would resolve this problem. The people filing the petition also say that removing the director without any involvement of the ISI Council was improper and an affront to the autonomy of the institution.

“In the absence of rigorous protocols, proof 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,” the petition said.

Arun Shourie, senior BJP leader and the Chairman of ISI, however has defended the decision and said he took full responsibility for it. “The government had no option but to use the powers it had under the ISI Act. He (Roy) created a situation which would have paralyzed the institution and vitiated the atmosphere. All the facts, circumstances and the law have been set out in the records of the Institute and have been furnished to the Government,” Shourie told BusinessLine.