After a protracted legal battle of nearly 10 years, former IGNOU vice chancellor V N Rajasekharan Pillai has come out clear after a special CBI court here discharged him in a corruption case, officials said on Tuesday.
Former Vice Chancellor of Punjab Technical University Rajneesh Arora and Joint Registrar RPS Bedi were also discharged from the case related to alleged corruption and forgery in allowing the university to run certain courses through distant mode from the academic year 2007.
“Criminal prosecution has been sought of very high-level dignitaries but the CBI just presented the charge sheet without bothering to see whether the ingredients of the alleged offences are present in this case,” Special Judge Naresh Kumar Laka noted.
The CBI, which started the probe in 2011 with a preliminary enquiry, filed an FIR followed by a charge sheet against Pillai, Arora and Bedi under charges of criminal conspiracy, forgery and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, the officials said.
The central agency had alleged that the University Grants Commission, All India Council for Technical Education and Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on May 10, 2007, which stipulated to set up an expert committee to visit the particular institution to verify the norms and standards of education before approving recognition.
The decision to approve was to be decided on the basis of the expert committee's report, observations of the joint committee and finally by the Distance Education Council (DEC), which is the primary authority of IGNOU for that purpose, they said. The CBI alleged that Pillai violated the MoU and "unilaterally" gave permission to Punjab Technical University to run certain courses through distant mode.
The court rejected the charge that Pillai misused his official position, as one of the relied documents in the CBI charge sheet having an expert opinion on the MoU, said it was not binding and also AICTE had not ratified the document.
Besides, the court agreed with Pillai that the MoU was to facilitate cordial functioning of three bodies--UGC, AICTE and IGNOU--having some overlapping functions "without losing their own statutory power". “As per established principles of the rule of law, a private agreement can never supersede the statutory provisions which are enacted by the legislatures i.e. Parliament of India or the State Legislative Body,” it said.
The court said according to the charge sheet, the CBI alleged that the three caused undue benefit to Punjab Technical University by granting recognition, which it did not deserve. “There is no specific allegation as to what monetary loss or valuable thing or pecuniary advantage has been given or caused to any of the accused persons in particular,” it added.
The court was dissatisfied with the CBI submission that Punjab Technical University got a pecuniary advantage from the fee given by the students enrolled in the courses recognised by Pillai. It pointed out that neither a table of such fees paid by the students with its amount, period and sessions were in the charge sheet, nor was student listed as a witness.
“A criminal trial is not commenced on the basis of assumptions or guesses but sufficient material is required to be shown on record by the prosecution, which it failed,” the special judge said. He said Punjab Technical University is a government university of the Punjab state and it has not been made an accused.
“The accused no.1 (Pillai) was an officer of IGNOU and the accused no.2 and 3 were officers of PTU. They cannot be made vicariously liable without joining the alleged principal offender i.e. Punjab Technical University,” he said. The court discharged all three accused from the case with the condition that if the order is challenged in a superior court, they will have to appear before it.
(With PTI inputs)