New Delhi: Indian Institute of Management (IIM) Rohtak Director Dheeraj Sharma has been appointed for a second term as head of the premier business school, despite “strong objections” from the Narendra Modi government, ThePrint has learnt.
The Union Ministry of Education had sent a show-cause notice to Sharma on 28 March, asking him to explain why he “concealed” his actual qualifications from the ministry.
Sharma has been under the scanner for alleged discrepancies in the educational qualifications he had mentioned in his records, as well as his eligibility. According to a petition filed last year in the Punjab & Haryana High Court against his selection, he had not submitted any supporting documents to the institute.
Sharma’s existing term as director of IIM-Rohtak, which began in February 2017, ended on 28 February this year. On the same day, at a meeting of the institute’s Board of Governors with an education ministry representative, the board decided to appoint Sharma for a fresh term despite the ministry raising the issue of discrepancies in his qualification, a highly placed source in the ministry told ThePrint.
By virtue of the Indian Institutes of Management Act, 2017, IIMs have the autonomy to appoint their own directors. The Act, however, says: “The Board shall in the exercise of its power and discharge its functions under this Act, be accountable to the central government.”
Under chairperson J.D. Shroff, the Board of Governors of IIM-Rohtak also includes the chief secretary of the Haryana government and the secretary (higher education).
Contacted by ThePrint, Sharma’s counsel Vivek Singla said: “The show-cause (notice) has been issued on the ground that Prof. Dheeraj Sharma had not provided Bachelor’s degree to the ministry. This ground is without any basis as Prof. Dheeraj Sharma has responded to the email sent by the ministry on 30 March 2016, by sending his Bachelor’s degree along with other documents as sought. The said email has been placed before the Hon’ble Court.”
Singla further said that the advertisement issued for the post of director had two modes of application — one was that applicants who fulfil the required qualifications can apply, and the other was through nomination by two eminent persons from the field of management and management education.
“Prof. Sharma is one of the most prominent management researchers globally. The entire episode is arising from a proxy writ filed by terminated employees of IIM-Rohtak. There is no basis for issuance of show-cause notice,” Singla added.
Govt ‘exploring legal options’ against Sharma
In 2019, a writ petition was filed in the Punjab and Haryana High Court challenging Sharma’s appointment, citing “discrepancies”.
The petitioner argued that Sharma did not graduate with a first division, which is a mandatory requirement for someone to be appointed to the post of an IIM director. At the time, the ministry had told the court that “due procedure” was followed for the appointment.
However, it admitted earlier this month to the court that Sharma’s appointment did not meet the eligibility criterion. In 2021, the ministry had sent Sharma letters on three different occasions, asking him to submit his graduation documents. The documents finally reached the ministry in the last week of February this year, and it found that he had secured a second division in his Bachelor’s degree, as opposed to the prerequisite of a first division.
“When we found out that he qualified his graduation in second division, we raised it with the Board of Governors, saying he concealed this very crucial fact from the government, and that he should not be given a fresh appointment as the director. But the ministry objection was overruled,” the ministry source quoted earlier said.
The source added that the ministry is now exploring legal options against Sharma.
“The fact that he was not eligible for the post of a director and he still continued to hold his post constitutes moral turpitude. He also used his post unduly and gained financially from it, which is extremely unfair. We are waiting for him to reply to our show-cause notice and also exploring what action can be taken against him,” the source added.
(Edited by Gitanjali Das)