Questions linger about Pondicherry University V-C's alleged plagiarism
An enquiry committee report on a professor's alleged plagiarism of academic papers is "personal to the employee concerned" and the same is exempt from disclosure, according to the University of Delhi.
Chief Public Information Officer Meenakshi Sahay, however, acknowledged the receipt of the complaint at the university against Prof. Gurmeet Singh, Vice-Chancellor Pondicherry University, during his service at the Department of Chemistry, University of Delhi, and at Dr Kalpana Bharara of Kirori Mal College, University of Delhi. The information was sought under the Right to Information Act 2005.
"The university has taken the action against Prof. Gurmeet Singh i.e. confidential in nature and the same may not be provided to the incumbent," said Sahay.
Singh was appointed as the Vice-Chancellor of Pondicherry University in November 2017. He was preceded by Chandra Krishnamurthy, who was sacked by the Visitor to the University, The President of India, in June 2016 on grounds of plagiarism and submission of a fake CV. Delhi University's stance that the enquiry records are "personal" and cannot be revealed casts a shadow on the new Vice-Chancellor at Pondicherry University.
Complaint from Praveen Kumar Janjua
President of a Chandigarh-based NGO, the Society for Values and Ethics in Education, Dr Praveen Kumar Janjua filed a complaint with the former Vice-Chancellor of DU, Prof. Dinesh Singh in September 2013. The complaint was attached to plagiarism reports of two of Gurmeet's co-authored papers. Janjua claimed that one paper had 85% plagiarised content and another had 75% plagiarised content.
"The research paper title "Hibiscus cannabinus extract as a potential green inhibitor for corrosion of mild steel in 0.5 M H2SO4 solution" of Ramananda Singh M and Prof. Gurmeet Singh, published in J. Mater. Environ. Sci. 3 (4) (2012) 698-705 (ANN IA) has been 85% copied and reproduced," the complaint said.
"The research paper title "Inhibiting effects of butyl triphenyl phosphonium bromide on corrosion of mild steel in 0.5 M sulphuric acid solution and its adsorption characteristics" of Kalpana Bhrara, Hansung Kim, Gurmeet Singh published in Corrosion Science 50 (2008) 2747-2754 (ANN 2A) has been 75% copied and reproduced," according to the complaint.
The complaint also stated that they are getting plagiarism reports on all his publications, and PhD and M.Phil theses supervised by him and submitted under his signatures, as well as a complete enquiry into his CV, which he is sending to get self-nominated for the post of vice-chancellor at various universities.
Prof. Pramod* (name changed to protect his identity), a senior faculty member from DU, told DH that the case is serious. An internal committee was formed to look into the allegation and they found that it was true. Prof. J P Khurana, who is currently the Interim Pro VC of DU and Prof. Sanjay Jain, Dept. of Physics, were the committee members, said Pramod.
"But his case was not placed before the EC [Excecutive Council], and he was issued an advisory based on the Prof. J P Khurana committee report," he said.
Another faculty member who served on the Academic Council during these years told DH that she does not recall Gurmeet's case being discussed by the council.
On Sept. 11, 2014, the Ministry of Human Resource Development ordered a probe based on Janjua's complaint. Prof. Kasturi Lal Chopra, Former IIT Kharagpur Director, was appointed as the one-man committee to conduct a "fact finding enquiry." According to a personal interview with Chopra that appeared in Yahoo News, he was removed from the post on Sept 22, 2014.
Strangely, an RTI query filed with the MHRD seeking an explanation for Chopra's removal and further actions taken was forwarded to DU. There was no information from DU regarding this.
"He, along with his students, is guilty of cases of self-plagiarism. Singh did not cooperate with us in an inquiry. We did bring this to the attention of the then VC but nothing happened," said Chopra in an e-mail interview. Chopra said he understands the university "only warned him." Chopra is the President of the Society for Scientific Values.
Interestingly, Chopra was also involved in investigating the Chandra Krishnamurthy case. But he has not extensively followed Gurmeet's case.
What role did SS Sandhu play?
In Gurmeet's case, Pramod* pointed the finger at Sukhbir Singh Sandhu, Additional Secretary, Central Universities, Language, Vigilance, Public Grievances. He said that Sandhu "has dumped the enquiry" as the "MHRD has not assigned the enquiry to anyone thereafter."
In an email reply to questions about the case, Subodh Kumar Ghildiyal, Deputy Secretary (CU.I), MHRD, told DH that "Professor Gurmeet Singh has been appointed as the Vice-Chancellor of Pondicherry University after completion of all the procedural formalities, including getting complete vigilance clearance by the University of Delhi authorities." He did not answer questions on Sandhu's possible involvement.
Search committee unaware
Prof. Pradip Narayan Ghosh is the former Vice-Chancellor of Jadavpur University, Kolkata, and a member of the search committee to find the best candidates for the post of Pondicherry University Vice-Chancellor. In a telephone interview, he said that this was the first he had heard of the allegation. "I was not aware of it," he said.
Legally, there is no restriction that would prevent a professor found guilty of plagiarism from becoming a Vice-Chancellor. However, while quashing the appeal petition of Chandra Krishnamurthy against the Show Cause notice, the Madras High Court emphasised the UGC regulation on qualifications and standards in higher education. The regulation reads, "7.3.0. VICE CHANCELLOR: i. Persons of the highest level of competence, integrity, morals and institutional commitment are to be appointed as Vice-Chancellors."
There were no responses to email queries sent to Prof. Gurmeet Singh, Prof. JP Khurana, Prof. Sanjay Jain, Prof. Dinesh Singh, other members of the search committee, and DU Vice-Chancellor Prof. Yogesh K Tyagi. DH will update this article with replies when we receive them.
(With inputs from Rohit Inani, a New Delhi-based journalist)