‘Misappropriation of funds, extortion’— why is Kanpur University VC Vinay Pathak under CBI lens

‘Misappropriation of funds, extortion’— why is Kanpur University VC Vinay Pathak under CBI lens

CBI is probing Pathak for allegedly taking bribe to clear contractor's dues during tenure as VC of Agra University. He 'enjoys patronage' of UP govt & Raj Bhavan, says opposition.

File photo of CSJM VC Vinay Kumar Pathak | Facebook @Prof Dr Vinay Kumar Pathak

File photo of CSJM VC Vinay Kumar Pathak | Facebook @Prof Dr Vinay Kumar Pathak

Lucknow: From holding simultaneous charge of three universities to facing allegations of seeking “commission” from a contractor to clear his dues and “misappropriation of funds”, Vinay Kumar Pathak, VC of Kanpur’s Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj (CSJM) University, now finds himself the subject of a probe by the the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

Questioning the Yogi Adityanath-led Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government over Pathak’s retention, the opposition is asking why he has not been removed as VC of CSJM and continues to “draw his salary” despite the serious nature of charges levelled against him.

ThePrint sent a detailed questionnaire via mail to the Chhatrapati Shahu Ji Maharaj (CSJM) University, the office of the vice chancellor, and the Raj Bhavan but did not receive a response by the time of publication. Phone calls to CSJM VC Vinay Kumar Pathak, too, went unanswered. This report will be updated when a response is received.

On 29 October last year, the UP Police lodged an FIR against Pathak on charges of extortion, corruption and wrongful confinement. This was followed by the arrests of three of his alleged accomplices in connection with the charges.

The CBI registered a case against Pathak (53) on 7 January this year.

Here, ThePrint looks at the chequered past of the computer science professor who served as VC of eight different universities across three states over a span of 13 years.

Pathak, a former lecturer and dean at Kanpur’s Harcourt Butler Technical Institute (HBTI) — now Harcourt Butler Technical University (HBTU) — served as VC of Haldwani-based Uttarakhand Open University (UOU) from 25 November 2009 till November 2012.

He was then appointed VC of Vardhman Mahaveer Open University (VMOU) in Rajasthan’s Kota on 1 February 2013. During his tenure at VMOU, Pathak was given additional charge as officiating VC of the Rajasthan Technical University in Kota on 16 May 2015. A day after he vacated both these offices on 3 August 2015, Pathak was appointed VC of the APJ Abdul Kalam Technical university (AKTU) — the premier varsity for technical education in UP.

Though appointed VC of AKTU during the Akhilesh Yadav-led Samajwadi Party (SP) administration, regime change in 2017 had no impact on Pathak’s bearings. During his tenure at AKTU which ended on 9 August 2021, he held additional charge as VC of HBTU, Kanpur. In January 2021, Pathak was also made VC of Lucknow’s Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti Language University (KMCLU) after Governor Anandiben Patel, as chancellor of state universities, “rejected” a shortlist of candidates and called for fresh interviews for the post.

Pathak took over as VC of Kanpur’s CSJM University on 12 April 2021, even as he was holding the additional charge as VC of AKTU.

Between January 2021 and April 2021, Pathak was effectively serving as VC of three universities — regular charge of CSJM and additional charge of AKTU and KMCLU. He relinquished the charge of KMCLU only on 9 April 2021 when a full-time VC was appointed in his place. However, in January 2022, Pathak was given additional charge as VC of the Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar University in Agra — a charge he held until September 2022.

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Allegations against Pathak

Trouble began for Pathak on 29 October last year when the UP Police filed a case against him on charges of corruption, extortion, wrongful confinement and criminal intimidation over allegations dating back to when he held additional charge as VC of Agra University.

The FIR was filed on the basis of a complaint by David Mario Denis, a contractor who claimed that he paid Pathak a “commission” of Rs 1.41 crore to get him to release the payment owed to Denis’s firm. According to its website, the firm, Lucknow-based Digitext Technologies Pvt Ltd, deals with form processing and automated data capturing through OMR (optical mark recognition) and ICR (intelligent character recognition) technologies.

In his complaint to the police, Denis said that his company was engaged directly by the Agra University for pre- and post-examination processes from 2014-15 till 2019-20. But in the academic year 2020-21, the varsity opted for the services of state-owned UP Electronics Corporation Ltd, which in turn hired Digitext for the same, resulting in non-payment of dues owed to Denis for the academic sessions 2020-21 and 2021-22.

According to the FIR, a copy of which is with ThePrint, Denis also alleged that Pathak, while demanding commission to clear his dues, told him about getting “VCs appointed to eight universities” and that he had to “pay higher-ups”. Denis further claimed that it was during a meeting at Pathak’s official residence on Kanpur University premises in February 2022 that the latter sought a “commission of 15 per cent” to release the payment.

The FIR said that, of the total amount (Rs 1.41 crore) Denis allegedly paid to Ajay Mishra, who he claimed is an associate of Pathak, instalments of Rs 20 lakh and Rs 15.5 lakh were paid in cash. In addition, instalments of Rs 51.63 lakh, Rs 11.8 lakh and Rs 10.98 lakh were purportedly transferred from Digitext’s bank account to that of an Alwar-based firm, International Business Forms “at the behest of Mishra in April 2022”.

This, claimed Denis, was paid “for clearance of bills worth Rs 4.45 crore”. The complainant also alleged that Pathak threatened him in October last year when he refused to pay another Rs 10 lakh for the continuation of his company’s contract with the Agra University.

The probe against Pathak pursuant to the FIR filed against him at Lucknow’s Indira Nagar police station was later transferred to the UP Special Task Force (STF).

While co-accused Mishra was arrested the day after the FIR was lodged, Ajay Jain — another alleged associate of Pathak — was arrested by the STF on 6 November last year, followed by the arrest of Sultanpur-based Santosh Kumar Singh on 16 December. The STF reportedly found that Singh’s firm, Satyam Solutions, had placed as many as 23 work orders at Mishra’s behest over the last few years and that they were constantly in touch.

Mishra is the owner of XLICT, a Lucknow-based IT solutions provider. Sources in the STF said Mishra allegedly used other firms as a “front” to acquire contracts from different universities. Pathak, sources confirmed to ThePrint, was sent three notices asking him to present himself before the agency in November-December last year, but he was a no-show.

On 29 December last year, the UP government recommended a CBI probe in the case against Pathak lodged at Indira Nagar police station. A week later, the central government’s Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) issued a gazette notification initiating the CBI probe in the case, government documents accessed by ThePrint show.

In the CBI’s FIR dated 7 January 2023, a copy of which is with ThePrint, Pathak and Ajay Mishra have been booked under IPC sections 386 (extortion), 342 (wrongful confinement), 504 (intentional insult and provocation to break public peace), 506 (criminal intimidation), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant), and 420 (cheating). Other sections invoked against them include IPC sections 467 (forgery of valuable security, will, etc.), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (fraudulently or dishonestly using as genuine any document or electronic record), and 120 (criminal conspiracy), besides section 7 (person not in office obtaining gratification by deception) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

‘Rs 450 cr invested in housing funds’

Pathak’s woes compounded after the STF probe brought to light allegations that during his tenure as VC of AKTU, varsity funds to the tune of Rs 450 crore were invested in private finance companies in violation of the UP government’s rules, and that a portion of the funds was allegedly siphoned.

In an order issued on 23 February 2016, the UP government’s finance department had allowed corporations/public enterprises and local bodies looking to invest their surplus funds to open their accounts “without approval of the finance department only in the banks mentioned in the list of the scheduled banks issued by the RBI”. A copy of the order, issued by then secretary of the finance department, Mukesh Mittal, is in possession of ThePrint.

However, the STF found that AKTU — during Pathak’s tenure as VC — invested Rs 450 crore in two housing funds of private sector housing companies which are not on the RBI’s list.

The decision to invest Rs 450 crores in two different housing funds was taken during the 50th meeting of AKTU’s finance committee chaired by then VC Pathak on 24 March 2018, show minutes of the meeting accessed by ThePrint. The proposal was for the varsity to invest Rs 400 crore of its funds in one housing fund and Rs 50 crore in another.

“According to the rules, university funds should have been invested in banks mentioned in the list of scheduled public and private banks but they were invested in housing funds of private finance companies. They were then withdrawn at least two-three times prematurely after a period of one year although the tenure of investment was about two years. Each time the withdrawal was made, a share of the invested amount went to the agent through whom the investment was done in the first place. Share of money which went to the agent was routed to political persons,” claimed sources.

Sources added that the money, after it was withdrawn, was “reinvested two-three times and each time, the share which went to the agent was siphoned”.

Pathak ‘enjoys blessings of senior most minister’

SP MLA from Kanpur’s Arya Nagar, Amitabh Bajpai, who — along with Kanpur Cantt MLA Hassan Roomi — led a dharna against Pathak outside CSJM Monday, accused Pathak of breaking “varsity fund deposits worth crores” during his tenure as VC of AKTU. “We filed detailed questions about this in UP Vidhan Sabha (Winter session) but a reply is awaited. Let’s see if we get a reply in the Budget session,” Bajpai told ThePrint.

During the dharna, SP leaders and their supporters placed a picture of Pathak outside the varsity’s gate and garlanded it with currency notes, before placing a pair of khadaun (slippers) there to suggest that the university was essentially “functioning without a VC”.

“Absent for two months, he (Pathak) continues to hold the post and even got his salary for two months on 6 January for which we have seen official documents. Despite such a big probe against him, there has been no suspension or removal. Governor is chancellor of CSJM. Clearly, this shows he has the patronage of the government and the Raj Bhavan,” said Bajpai.

After Pathak was booked in October last year, a body of six former MLAs from UP under the banner of Rashtravadi Poorva Vidhayak Samiti had written to Governor Anandiben Patel on 4 November 2022 to demand the “strictest action” against Pathak, while also requesting that he not be given “preferential treatment”.

The letter, a copy of which is with ThePrint, was signed by former MLAs from Kanpur and Kanpur Dehat districts, including Bhudhar Narayan Mishra, Nek Chandra Pandey, Hafiz Mohammed Umar, Ganesh Dixit, Sanjeev Dariyabadi and Sardar Kuldeep Singh.

Pathak, said the letter, has become a synonym of “corruption, misconduct and fraud”. It added that “despite resorting to such misconduct, so far, Pathak has not faced any suspension, arrest or bulldozer…”

Alleging that Pathak “enjoys the blessings of a senior most minister and family in UP and at the centre”, the signatories claimed, “As a result, in serious cases against him, only coverup is happening rather than action and the future of the public, students, teachers and employees is in limbo.”

One of the signatories, Bhudhar Narayan Mishra told ThePrint that arrest is the first action authorities take in the case of “such a serious crime”.

“But in this case, people are knowingly trying to save him (Pathak). Despite serious charges, he continues to be the VC. We had demanded that he be sacked and a new VC be immediately appointed for CSJMU but to no avail.” Mishra claimed that while Pathak has not been seen on varsity grounds, “he continues to operate as VC”.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

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