Mumbai: Shipping company, director sinking in corruption charges

Nov 03, 2017, 09:29 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon

Supreme court issues notice to shipping ministry and firm after whistle-blower files PIL; director says petitioner’s allegations revenge for sacking

The Supreme Court has issued a notice to the Ministry of Shipping and Shipping Corporation of India (SCI) after a whistle-blower levelled allegations of corruption in the organisation, including the appointment of an undergraduate candidate for the post of director at SCI. The matter is likely to come up today in the SC.

Raja Basu, the petitioner
Raja Basu, the petitioner

Degrees of corruption
The whistle-blower, Raja Basu, 53, was formerly assistant manager and general secretary of the officers' association at SCI, until he was allegedly removed from service in May for exposing the wrongdoings at the public sector enterprise.

Basu's lawyer, advocate Rameshwar Panchal, said, "Basu was concerned about the appointment of Captain Bipin Bihari Sinha as director (P&A) in August 2012. The job requirement was a graduate degree or equivalent. Sinha, in his biodata, had mentioned that he was a graduate, but his qualification was only a Certificate of Competency (CoC) for Master of Foreign Going Ship (Master FG). Apart from that, he had cleared only Std XI (HSC examination in 1974 was until Std XI, not XII)."

In 2015, when he raised doubts over this, Sinha procured a Letter of Equivalence from Mumbai University (MU), after which SCI issued a notice stating that Sinha is a BSc graduate in Nautical Science. This, despite the fact that a Letter of Equivalence is only meant for pursuing higher studies, and it cannot be used as a graduation certificate.

On December 29, 2015, after Basu made inquiries about the document, MU admitted that it was an oversight and immediately withdrew the Letters of Equivalence issued on August 8, 2015 and October 1, 2015. The shipping ministry rejected Sinha's candidature, but he still managed to be appointed as acting chairman and managing director of SCI from January 1 to May 31, 2016.

Basu alleged, "Instead of applauding my efforts to expose the wrongdoing within SCI, they made me a scapegoat. They levelled false charges against me and asked me to take VRS on May 27, 2017. I will continue my fight till I get justice and expose the corrupt. I have challenged my removal in HC."

The other side
Dipankar Haldar, executive director (legal affairs and company secretary) at SCI, said via email: "SCI is a Navratna shipping company under the administrative control of the Ministry of Shipping, Government of India, and abides by law of the land. The matter is currently sub judice and shall be decided by the Supreme Court in due course."

Sinha, in his affidavit filed at the HC, had said the allegations are false. "I hold a Certificate of Competency of a Master of Foreign Going Ship, and the Government of India and Mumbai University declares that it be regarded equivalent to a BSc in Nautical Science." He added that MU had restored the cancelled certificate on December 29, 2015.

Sinha further said that Basu was guilty of dishonourable acts, such as allegedly misusing his bachelor accommodation for his family and fraudulently marking attendance at an office he was not posted at. He added that action was also taken against Basu for taking excess travel claims and unauthorised leave.

"Therefore, the contention of the petitioner is based on prejudice and personal vendetta," Sinha added.

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