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Chargesheet filed against CoA director

Action under Prevention of Corruption Act follows CBI raid on Council of Architecture director Sohoni's college

The controversy over alleged financial irregularities and misuse of power by Council of Architecture (CoA) director Vijay Shrikrishna Sohoni just got murkier. The CoA is the country's apex professional body which grants registration to architecture graduates. MiD DAY has now learnt that the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on August 30 chargesheeted Sohoni, his wife and four others in New Delhi's Patiala House Court under the Prevention of Corruption Act (1988).

The chargesheet was filed in the court of Judge Sanjeev Jain. The move comes after the CBI on August 8 raided one of Sohoni's Panaji-based colleges, Institute of Design Environment and Architecture (IDEA), on August 8. MiD DAY had first reported on September 1 about Sohoni's fight with architecture colleges in the city, Nashik and Kolhapur.

According to college managements, Sohoni was passing orders and reducing student intake in the colleges, effectively superseding the rules laid down by the Architect's Act. Reducing intake and recommending de-recognition is the prerogative of the All-India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) and the Directorate of Technical Education (DTE), and the University Grant's Commission (UGC), as prescribed by the act.

A city college hat has been affected by Sohoni'sactions is the Maharashtra Mitra Mandal College of Architecture (MMCoA), where Sohoni was allegedly scaring students' parents that MMCoA's degree will not get their wards officially registered with the CoA.

MMCoA officials had said that the college was officially affiliated with the University of Pune (UoP), as per the act's rules. Principal in-charge Milind Chitale had said this was unnecessarily scaring students and risking their career when the college was functioning within all legal frameworks.

The point to be noted is that these affected colleges are the ones where Sohoni was earlier either rejected the principal's post or had disagreements with the managements. The CBI spokesperson from Delhi, Dharini Mishra, confirmed the action and said officials were investigating cases of financial misappropriation and violation of UGC rules. "We are investigating the college's dubious affiliations to universities," she said, refusing to comment further.

The matter will now come up for hearing in mid-September. Asked about the CBI action, Sohoni refused comment. "I can't comment unless the charges are disproved and I have sufficient documentary evidence to claim otherwise," he said.

Action first of its kind in country: Insiders
According to officials privy to the case, the CBI action is the first of its kind in Indian history. The action was taken as a result of former Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal formally requesting the CBI to look into the matter in 2007.

Following is a list of Sohoni's alleged illegal functioning at Vidyavardhan's Institute of Design Environment and Architecture at Panaji which led to the raid on August 8: 

> NDMVP College management issued a public notice (about Sohoni's continual absence from college activities), to which he answered that he was no more with them but has started his own college at Goa. The college has his wife as the main trustee and himself as the director and was overnight awarded the intake of 40 by the CoA.

> To succeed in establishing his institute in Goa, he reduced Goa's Government College of Architecture intake to zero. However, the college filed a suit and won.

> Realising he has vacated the principal's post at NDMVP College (on the basis of which he was elected to the CoA) and that VIDEA is unrecognised, MMCoA officially challenged his heading the CoA in the Bombay High Court, which asked him to vacate the seat. Sohoni managed to stay the order through the Supreme Court by using the CoA money employing advocate Harish Salve. Case is now pending in SC since 2007.

> Sohoni attached documents in the SC that showed him as heading VIDEA, and affiliated to a university in Uttarakhand. UGC observed jurisdiction of a University in Uttarakhand cannot grant affiliation to a college in Goa. (Further, the said University is also not recognized by the UGC).

> Sohoni then managed to 'impress' the IGNOU and was about to sign an MOU allowing his VIDEA to claim legitimacy. However the Centre representative cautioned the IGNOU and the MOU was not authenticated.

> Through a court order, VIDEA was sealed by the Government of Goa and hence desperate to claim legitimate existence and because he was continuing as the President of Council of Architecture, he on one hand granted the YCMOU an intake of 40 in lieu of which started claiming on VIDEA website that it is affiliated to YCMOU.

> The latest is that he has started a VIDEA campus at Nashik but is unable to get his students transferred there as no examination or enrolment is registered with any university. Centre had officially asked CBI to conduct inquiry.

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