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BIS suspends licence after lab refuses to comply with bribe demand

Smriti Sharma Vasudeva | New Delhi |

All is not well at the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) under the Consumer Affairs, Food and Public Distribution Ministry if one goes by the number of complaints posted on the Centralised Public Grievance and Monitoring System (CPGRAMS)  besides over a  dozen ongoing court cases filed by the employees against the alleged high-handedness of the present authorities at the Bureau.

One of the latest and perhaps the most piquant complaint to hit the BIS is that by a Pune-based laboratory whose licence was illegally suspended on the basis of an anonymous complaint which was found out to be frivolous and based on a forged document.

Interestingly, prior to suspending the licence of the said laboratory, BIS officers, including the auditing team, had not found any merit in the complaint and had recommended a closure of the complaint. Even the regional office of BIS-the  Western Regional Office Laboratory (WROL) under whose jurisdiction the laboratory falls, too, didn't find any irregularity and had the same recommendation, that of closing the complaint and renewing of the licence of the laboratory.

Despite this, the BIS authorities went ahead and suspended the licence of the said laboratory. For, at the heart of this controversy was a demand for a bribe of Rs.10 lakh by two high ranking BIS officials.

What is shocking is that even when the investigation in this regard is going on, one of the two officials, who allegedly sought bribe from the laboratory, was made the head of the jurisdictional office-WROL, thus having free access to all the files, evidences and records pertaining to this matter.

The laboratory officials, including the Director and Chairman of the laboratory-HI Physix, wrote several emails to the WROL officials besides making efforts to have a meeting with the Director General (DG) of BIS in Delhi Alka Panda to apprise her of entire matter but to no avail. Even when the laboratory officials did get a chance to meet with the DG with the intervention of a Member of Parliament from Pune, but it was of no help.

After much dilly dallying, BIS had no option but to revoke the suspension order once documentary evidence proved that the complaint did not stand grounds.

However, by now, the matter has reached the Chief Vigilance Officer (CVO) of the  Consumer Affairs Ministry as well as the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) after the laboratory officials decided to pursue the matter which had cost them financial as well as reputational loss.

When contacted, Pune-based laboratory director Pankaj Rai, said, "We have been running from pillar to post from past one year to get justice in this matter from the authorities at the Ministry as well as BIS. We had to face huge financial losses on account of the suspension of our licence. Be, we suffered a huge reputational crisis which is an irreparable loss. We are still fighting to get justice and we are hopeful it will be served in due course of time and the guilty officials will be brought to book".

The laboratory officials have already recorded their statements with the CVO of the ministry, explaining in detail how they were asked to pay bribe to get the licence renewed and have also provided all the necessary documents supporting their claims.

The Statesman tried to get in touch with the Director General, BIS Alka Panda, in this regard and had sent an email to the DG seeking a comment on this issue but got no response for over a week.