The institution is said to have followed due process for a public auction

Clearance by a 10-member ‘write-off' committee, followed by a due instituted process of the university for a public auction, preceded the sale of obsolete and unserviceable equipment, apparatus and wooden/steel furniture in the Chemistry Department of the University of Delhi, which included the disposal of the highly hazardous equipment containing the radioactive device Co-60. The radioactive device, which ended up in the scrap metal market at Mayapuri, caused the death of one and severe radiation poisoning of six others who are battling in the city hospital.

The committee had been constituted on February 6 by the then head of the department, Prof. V.S. Parmar, which included five members from the Chemistry Department, one from Zoology, one from Botany and one from the Plant Molecular Biology Department (South Campus) as well as two other members. The committee, which was headed by Prof. Parmar, comprised the following:

Prof. V.S. Parmar (Chair); Prof. S.M.S. Chauhan, Prof. R.C. Rastogi, Prof. A.K. Prasad, Prof. R.K. Sharma (all from the Chemistry Department); Prof. Roop Lal from Zoology, Prof. I. Usha Rao from Botany, Prof. J.P. Khurana from Plant Molecular Biology (South Campus), Mr. J.L. Bhatia Assistant Engineer (Electrical) and Ms. Lata Rani (of the Audit Department).

Prof. Parmar sent a letter on January 20 to Vice-Chancellor Prof. Deepak Pental seeking his approval for the constitution of the committee, to which the VC gave his consent on February 1. The letter said: “The Department of Chemistry has a large number of old teaching and research equipment, which have become totally unusable and unserviceable and have [been] reduced to junk. For disposing [of] these… I have consulted some of my colleagues in the department who gave their opinion that the old and obsolete items of equipment should be disposed [off] as early as possible, in particular because one block has to be demolished immediately for [the] construction of new ‘TR Seshadri Block' of the department.”

Faculty members' assent

Appended to the above communication was the assent given by as many as 15 faculty members of the chemistry department to the disposal of “all obsolete items stored in several rooms and laboratories of the department.” Following this the VC gave his approval for the constitution of an eight-member committee on February 1. Two more members, namely Mr. Bhatia and Ms. Rani, seem to have been added later. However, a few of the assenting faculty members contacted by The Hindu said they were not aware that the items intended to be disposed off included a radioactive device.

Following the approval by this committee, the Assistant Internal Audit Officer sent a communication to Prof. Parmar on February 15 conveying the approval of the pro Vice-Chancellor of the university to dispose of the items included in a list by a public auction through the Engineering Department. This letter also stated the book value of the goods being disposed off as Rs. 60,69,743 but whose current residual value was estimated to be Rs. 62,086 and the acceptable floor price was Rs. 42,865.

This communication was followed by one dated February 16 from the Executive Engineer announcing the public auction of the items in the list approved by the committee on February 26 on “as is where is basis” in a singe lot. The terms and conditions for the auction included that the site should be cleared within three days after the auction and that the auction would be subject to the approval of competent authorities.

Copies of the above documents are with The Hindu. However, of the members of the Committee that The Hindu was able to reach, a few denied having attended any meeting of the committee. This included Prof. Chauhan, Prof. I. Usha Rao and Prof. J.P. Khurana. Prof. Prasad and Prof. R.K. Sharma declined to talk about it saying that only the HOD or the then Vice-Chancellor would answer all questions regarding the issue. Neither Prof. Parmar nor the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Deepak Pental, was available for comment.

Prof. Parmar's term in the department ended on April 30 when he took voluntary retirement from the university. His seeking voluntary retirement has, however, nothing to do with the disastrous Mayapuri incident. Prof. A. K. Bakshi has reportedly taken over from Prof. Parmar.