Govt. takes over Sapru House

NEW DELHI, SEP. 2. After remaining embroiled in legal wrangling and a battle of wits, the Union Government acted decisively at last and took over the prestigious Indian Council of World Affairs and its Sapru House headquarters through a Presidential Ordinance.

This ended over two decades of control by Mr. Harcharan Singh Josh, a former Congress(I) member of the Delhi Municipal Corporation, who was functioning as the president of the Indian Council of World Affairs. A registered society, the council has had eminent people like Mr. H. N. Kunzru as its president.

There were allegations that the council, regarded as a premier institution of the country, had degenerated completely. Its affairs were being mismanaged and gross irregularities had been committed by its management. The External Affairs Ministry and the HRD Ministry went to the extent of stopping the grants to the Council. Even the Urban Development Ministry initiated action to evict the council from Sapru House, a property of the Government. It was alleged that portions of the premises had been let out to private parties and individuals.

The formal takeover came with the appointment and installation of Mr. Parthasarthy Ray, Joint Secretary (Policy, Planning and Research), Ministry of External Affairs, as Director General of the council in accordance with the provision of the Indian Council of World Affairs Ordinance, 2000. The External Affairs Minister would be the ex-officio president of the new body.

Pursuant to the Ordinance and appointment of the Director General, the Government moved swiftly. Invoking powers under the Ordinance, it vested the property known as Sapru House in the new body formed under it.

Apart from notifying that barring the administrative office, the library and other premises of Sapru House would remain closed till October 5 for repairs and stock taking, the new Director General also directed the illegal occupants not to deal with the erstwhile society or enter into any financial transaction with it. It has been clarified that this notice would in no way imply acceptance of the legality of their occupation. The staff and employees of the society have been declared employees of the new council.

The Union Urban Development Minister, Mr. Jagmohan, who briefed the media on the takeover, said a decision to issue the Ordinance was taken on August 31 by the Union Cabinet which recommended its promulgation to the President. Following this, the President, Mr. K. R. Narayanan, issued the Ordinance.

An administrative committee under his chairmanship has also been set up to supervise and guide the Director General with regard to his function, and, amongst other things, make arrangements for organisation of the institution and reconstruction and renovation of the entire complex, including its building and attached lands.

Asserting that he did not want to go into the irregularities committed by the management of the erstwhile society, Mr. Jagmohan said the law would take its own course as and when they were detected by the authorities concerned, including the Comptroller and Auditor General.

By declaring the Indian Council of World Affairs as an institution of national importance, the Government had shown that it was determined to make Sapru House a centre of worldwide repute in matters of research and academic pursuits, international relations and diplomacy and other national and global affairs. It would act as an eminent clearing house of information and knowledge on world affairs.

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