AAP minister makes new charge against chief secy
Delhi's Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) has been accused of signing an agreement to benefit a company co-founded by the chief secretary's son. The hospital denies any wrongdoing. This comes after previous allegations of impropriety against the chief secretary. The government and senior bureaucrats have been at odds for months. The vigilance minister has recommended the removal of the chief secretary and a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation. The agreement allegedly gives the company unrestricted access to valuable datasets and free commercial space. The founders' experience and expertise have also been questioned.
The Delhi government-run hospital Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) signed an agreement to illicitly benefit a company co-founded by chief secretary Naresh Kumar’s son, according to a new report submitted by vigilance minister Atishi to the chief minister Arvind Kejriwal that accuses the top bureaucrat of irregularities, although the hospital denied any wrongdoing and called the allegations baseless.
The report comes days after another allegation of impropriety by the government against the chief secretary, whom it accused of helping people linked to his son Karan Chauhan make ₹850 crore in illicit profits in a deal for land near the Dwarka expressway.
To be sure, the government and senior bureaucrats, who now come under the control of the lieutenant governor, have been on a collision course for several months now, and charges have been flying on both sides.
Kumar did not respond to requests for a comment but has in recent days, in the context of the land deal allegations, welcomed an investigations, calling the allegations “a conspiracy by vested interests”.
The new report, a supplementary to the one filed in connection with the Dwarka expressway case, alleges that ILBS struck a memorandum-of-understanding (MoU) with MetaMix, a company it said was co-founded by Chauhan, to set up a new artificial intelligence (AI) research unit despite not having adequate qualification or track record.
Kumar, as the chief secretary, is the head of ILBS governing council.
The hospital denied the allegations, and said no payments had been made to MetaMix.
“ILBS confirms it did not issue any purchase order or made any payment to any Al software developer or company. These allegations are totally baseless and are without merit. ILBS firmly reiterates its commitment to transparency and adherence to ethical practices in all its endeavours. Any insinuation suggesting otherwise is entirely unfounded,” the hospital’s statement added.
The report, seen by HT, claimed that MetaMix was set up eight months before it signed an MoU with ILBS and has no previous experience in the virtual reality domain. The MoU was signed in a rush, even before the legal advisor of the institute could approve it, and without following the due tendering process, the vigilance minister said in the report.
Citing these alleged findings, the vigilance minister recommended Kumar be immediately removed his position to prevent him from influencing investigations and tampering with evidence. The report also recommended that the matter be referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation for a probe under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
The agreement, the report claimed gives MetaMix “unrestricted access to valuable datasets, case data and set data that are crucial for developing augmented reality models, which no other private company can access for free”, therefore providing the company “huge scope for illegitimate financial and reputational benefits at the cost of public exchequer”.
The vigilance minister also added that the MoU provided MetaMix access to the 3,500 square feet office space at the lab in ILBS in Vasant Kunj, which amounts to a direct financial benefit of ₹1.44 crores in terms of free commercial space.
The report questioned the experience and expertise of the founders of MetaMix to be able to secure this MoU. It also added that the MoU provides for long-term, perpetual profiteering by MetaMix by providing it with joint intellectual property rights for any IP developed through this project and for a 50% share of profits for any future commercialisation of work arising out of this collaboration.
Though MetaMix did not respond to queries seeking comment, in another clarification ILBS said: “A MoU was signed by ILBS on 24.01.2023 for a period of six months for research work, and this MoU expired on 23rd July 2023. This MoU was a research collaboration with zero expenditure to ILBS. Sh Karan Chauhan is not a signatory of the MoU as falsely circulated in media. Sh Karan Chauhan is not connected with the company with which ILBS signed the MoU, as he is neither shareholder nor Director nor Partner nor employee nor functionary in the said company.”
The bureaucracy has been seen in a virtual crossfire as the AAP and LG VK Saxena (who reports to the Bharatiya Janata Party-led Union government) have jostled for control, with the latter eventually prevailing after Parliament passed amendments to the GNCTD Act, the law governing bureaucratic postings.