IIT Madras professor suspended over research student’s suicide

City police seeks report of inquiry committee for further action

Indian Institute of Technology - Madras Indian Institute of Technology - Madras

The Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) has suspended professor Ashish Kumar Sen based on an inquiry report submitted by a five-member panel in the case relating to the suicide of a research scholar in March this year. 

“Ashish Sen was suspended based on the direction of the Board of Governors. The institute is following all due procedures with regard to inquiry and subsequent action,” an IIT-M spokesperson has confirmed. 

Ashish Sen, a professor of the mechanical engineering department, was the guide of Sachin Kumar Jain, a research scholar, at the same department. The 31-year-old student died by suicide on March 31. 

Sachin’s brother Bhavesh Kumar Jain had written a six-page letter to IIT-M Director V. Kamakoti, alleging that his brother was under undue pressure and stress because of the treatment he had received from his guide. Bhavesh had also sought a detailed probe into the death of his brother. 

Various students groups at the institute had also demanded a probe into Sachin’s death.

Following this, IIT-M formed a five-member committee with Director General of Police G. Thilagavathi as its chairperson. Former IAS officers Sabitha and Kannagi Packianathan, Professor Ravindra Giddu and student representative Amal were the other members of the panel.

The committee probed the circumstances which led to the death of Sachin and recorded the statements of his friends, relatives, faculty members and students. Based on its findings, the panel submitted a 35-page report to the management which suspended Ashish Sen.

According to insiders in the institute, Sachin had submitted his thesis report which Ashish Sen asked a junior to peer review. This reportedly upset Sachin and he died by suicide, say sources.

According to sources, the Chennai city police has asked the IIT-M management to provide the committee report for initiating further action in the case. 

Incidentally, this was the first time IIT-M had constituted a committee to inquire into the death of a student, allegedly by suicide. 

The premiere institute had witnessed massive protests in 2019 following the death of a student, Fathima Latheef. 

At least a dozen students of IIT-M have died by suicide in the last one decade. Though a few cases were allegedly due to pressure, some others were reportedly due to caste and religious issues.

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