By Nageshwar Patnaik in Bhubaneswar, June 29, 2017 : When the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) targets a successful scientist for investigation of his “so-called financial irregularity”, it devastates the reputation of the scientist and the potential for reputational damage can run deep.

Take the case of Dr Barada Kanta Mishra, presently Director of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Goa.

The CBI has alleged that during his tenure as Director, the Institute of Minerals and Materials Technology (IMMT) in the capital city here had amassed huge disproportionate assets to the tune of about Rs 1.14 crore to his known source of income during April 1, 2006 to August 31, 2016.

Ironically, the CBI assumes in the FIR filed last week before the Special Judge [CBI] that “the acquisition of the same is not likely to be accounted for satisfactorily by said Dr Barada Kanta Mishra.”

The moot question is should the CBI prosecute an eminent scientist based on an oral complaint without due diligence exercise? Did the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research [CSIR], which manages IMMT, complain? Did statutory auditors comment adversely?

A press note released by B.D. Mahalik, Controller of Administration, IMMT, Bhubaneswar refuted any financial irregularities committed by the institute. “Taking a cognisance of the news clippings regarding alleged financial irregularities in IMMT, Bhubaneswar being telecast in some of the news channels, it is hereby clarified that there is no such irregularity at IMMT and the allegation is totally refuted. It is further clarified and affirmed that IMMT strictly follows the prescribed Government of India/ CSIR rules in toto for all official transactions/matters.”

A graduate of NIT, Rourkela, Dr Mishra spent almost a decade in USA pursuing his Masters and PhD and subsequently working along with his wife in full time jobs before deciding to come back to India to join IIT Kanpur in mid-nineties. Around 1995 he purchased a piece of land near Khandagiri and there abouts a small flat in Mumbai.

After almost a decade of illustrious service in IIT Kanpur, he was selected to head the then RRL Bhubaneswar which had become one of the least developed and productive laboratories in the CSIR system due to years of neglect. In the ten years he headed the laboratory not only the name changed to IMMT, the laboratory itself had a complete make-over.

Before his joining IIT Goa as director Dr Mishra has submitted an asset list to government which lists all his possessions of value along with all the financial transactions and paper trail as all of it was done through banking channels and very little cash was ever involved if any.

As per conservative estimate, Dr Mishra and his wife had assets worth more than Rs 30 lakh while the CBI has pegged at around Rs 3.8 lakh. “The CBI could have done a simple due diligence to realize that there was no case to file an FIR. However during his tenure at IMMT many of his strict action against the corrupt, the entrenched vested interest had created a few persons bent upon harming his career and reputation. As such many complaints have been filed against him over last few years with many agencies like CBI, Chief Vigilance Commission (CVC), Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) etc. without ever any action being taken as a cursory inquiry would have revealed the true nature of the complaints and allegations,” says Dr Mishra’s younger brother, Dhanada, whose residence was also raided by the CBI last week.

Interestingly, the CBI found only Rs 1800 in his wife’s possession during the raid. The shaken scientist says, “I and my wife have been paying taxes regularly and details of all our assets are well documented. As long as I was in IMMT, there was no such allegation of corruption and it has been corroborated by IMMT Controller of Administration. I was already financially well off as both me and my wife worked in the US and continued working at IIT, Kanpur till December 2005.”

In fact, Dr Mishra acted against some corrupt scientists and officials during his stint at IMMT and even now continues to do so at IIT, Goa, for which he has earned their wrath. Possibly, the vested interest has partially succeeded in hatching a conspiracy to malign his image through CBI.

The CBI would, of course, be required to prove the allegation of corruption by Dr Mishra in the court of law. But building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose.