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  • Aditya Roy

ED Arrests Ashoka Founders, Press Assigns Undue Emphasis To Ashoka Connection

Updated: Oct 30, 2023

Ashoka founders Vineet and Pranav Gupta were arrested on Saturday, October 28th, 2023 on charges of alleged bank fraud due to their posts on the board of directors of pharmaceutical firm Parabolic Drugs. Pranav Gupta established Parabolic Drugs in 1996 and currently serves as the Managing Director, while Vineet Gupta is the ‘whole-time director’ (as per the company’s website).

The arrests follow an Enforcement Directorate (ED) raid conducted on Friday under the provisions of The Prevention of Money Laundering Act, 2002 (PMLA). The ED raided 17 premises associated with Parabolic Drugs in Chandigarh, Delhi, Mumbai, Panchkula, and Ambala. In addition to the Gupta brothers, the ED also arrested SK Bansal, an accountant from Chandigarh who served as the company's CA.

The Gupta brothers and Mr Bansal are currently undergoing legal proceedings in a special PMLA court located in Panchkula. They are at present in ED custody for a period of five days, as ordered by the special court, following their arrest on Saturday.

Deviating Media Attention Towards Ashoka

Dozens of media outlets reporting on the arrest of the Gupta brothers have focused on spotlighting their affiliation with Ashoka University as its founding board members. This particular choice of narrative arises at a time when Ashoka has been under scrutiny following the resignation of Professor Sabyasachi Das, due to the backlash he received for his working research paper exploring democratic backsliding in the 2019 general elections.

Similar to prior PR stances, Ashoka University was quick to distance itself from the situation following the ED raids. An excerpt from the university's official statement reads, “Ashoka University has no past or current relationship with Parabolic Drugs, the company being investigated, and any attempt to create a link is without any basis and misleading.”

The university had previously issued an official statement in January 2022, after the executive directors of Parabolic Drugs, including the Gupta brothers, were initially booked by the CBI in December 2021 in connection to this case. The statement pointed out that, “The university has over 200 founders and donors who have made personal philanthropic contributions to Ashoka. Their individual business dealings and operations have no connection to the university.” Key points from this statement were reiterated in the statement issued Friday.

Admin’s Message To Student Body

The Vice-Chancellor's Office sought to address the speculation via an email addressed to the Ashoka community on Sunday, stating, “. . . news headlines have assigned undue emphasis on their Ashoka affiliation, creating an impression that the University is directly connected to the case.”

“ED teams have also visited Ashoka's Delhi office and the Campus in the last two days, and we are fully cooperating with their investigations,” the email further clarified.

Academic Hindrance Due To The Arrest

In January 2022, Pranav Gupta and Vineet Gupta both stepped down from the respective positions they held in the committees & boards of the University. While the current nature of the association of the Gupta brothers with the university is unclear, Vineet Gupta continues to be affiliated with the University as a professor in the Entrepreneurship department. He is currently offering a course titled “The Power Of Execution” (ENT-2031-1) this semester. However, his arrest and custody raise concerns over the future of the course and the semester credits of the 51 students enrolled in it.

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