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Above: Students of NLIU, Bhopal, protesting against malpractices, including the allotment of fake degrees/Photo: @nliuspeaks/facebook.com

With the credibility of Bhopal’s National Law Institute University taking a hit after a probe panel detected that 188 students had fraudulently obtained their degrees, over 8,000 mark sheets will be scrutinised

By Rakesh Dixit in Bhopal

The prestigious National Law Institute University (NLIU), Bhopal, has plunged into a severe crisis of credibility. It has been forced to scrutinise over 8,000 marksheets and degrees given to its students between 2003 and 2015 after a probe report by a retired High Court judge found huge irregularities.

NLIU, Bhopal, which was founded in 1998, is recognised as one of the top law colleges of central India.

The probe panel detected 188 students who fraudulently obtained their degrees with the help of some staff members of the institute. Of these, 101 were allegedly involved in a criminal conspiracy to get their mark sheets stamped as “successful candidates” although they had failed in the final examinations.

According to the report, a nexus between certain professors and non-teaching staff at NLIU manipulated marks and helped failed students receive fake degrees from 1998 to 2013. The committee, headed by retired judge Abhay Gohil, has recommended FIRs against nine professors and non-teaching staff in this case. The panel has also served showcause notices on six others—both teaching and non-teaching staff—to explain why disciplinary action shouldn’t be initiated against them.

The Justice AK Gohil panel presented its investigation report to the NLIU general council on January 19.

The report was tabled in the presence of MP High Court Chief Justice Sanjay Kumar Seth who is ex-officio head of the council.

The report found that not only the students who failed, but even those absent, had received degrees. Some of them went on to get jobs in the lower judiciary and law firms. The most shocking thing, according to the report, “was that students, who were found absent in the attendance register, received pass marks in the result and later they received degrees. Over-writing was also found in the papers”.

Answer sheets and tabulation charts of seven students were found missing from NLIU records. This is because either the mark list, tabulation chart, answer sheets or all three were missing. One student of the 2010 batch flunked in 47 subjects in 14 trimesters but managed to receive a pass certificate for all the subjects.

Through manipulation at three levels—mark list, tabulation chart and answer sheets—scores of failed students were given “pass marks”, the report said. The difference in marks mentioned in the tabulation sheet and the mark sheets was noticed during the inquiry.

“Professors concerned should have flagged the matter but they supported the students and staff members,” said the report. “It is a clear case of forgery and creating false documents to make changes in the genuine record of the university under a criminal conspiracy.” The probe panel has recommended that the general council take “appropriate decision” about these students and the staff members involved in the racket.

Justice Gohil concluded his report with a stern recommendation: “Under the compelling circumstances, I have no option but to recommend that this is a fit case, in the interest of reputation of the university, to initiate FIR on nine employees, including professors and non-teaching staff.”

The persons named in the report include assistant registrar Ranjit Singh, library assistant Binoy Singh, former examination superintendent professor UP Singh, tabulation chart in-charge Tapan Mohanty, assistant system manager Dhirendra Singh, examination section employee Kamlesh Shrivas, assistant grade three employee Narayan Prasad, former assistant professor C Rajshekhar, former employee Arifuddin Ahmed Khan, professor Gayur Khan, associate professor Kavita Singh, former registrar RKS Gautam, assistant registrar Ravi Pandey, associate professor Monica Raje and employee Ankit Sharma. The panel had earlier recorded statements of several teachers and employees about the missing records.

The malpractice came to light in November 2016 when some students lodged a complaint to then Chief Justice of MP High Court Hemant Gupta, who was head of the general council of the institute. They alleged that degrees were being sold for lakhs of rupees in NLIU. Following the complaints, NLIU set up a three-member internal committee comprising professors SS Kushwah, UP Singh and Ghayur Alam.

The committee in its report in September 2017 recommended a judicial probe into the complaints as they were of a serious nature. On the basis of the report, a single-member committee under retired judge Abhay Gohil was formed.

The internal committee had noted overwriting and the use of whitener in some tabulation charts at some places with initials and without initials.

Justice Gohil, in his first report in March 2018, held then NLIU director SS Singh responsible for the irregularities. Singh retired in November 2017 after a week of student protests against administrative apathy. The report also blamed assistant registrar Ranjit Singh for the manipulation of marks.

A two-member committee of the then additional chief secretary, higher education and the principal secretary of law and legislative affairs also probed the allegations in November 2017. The IAS officers’ panel also blamed Ranjit Singh for the irregularities. He was subsequently suspended.

In March 2018, the Gohil committee found 16 students guilty of manipulation of the results as they had either failed or were absent during their examination, but were awarded law degrees. Justice Gohil handed over the list of students to NLIU registrar Girijabala Singh in October last year to give them a chance to present their side.

“Most of the students denied the allegations and said they didn’t know anything. They said the institute had issued degrees and they accepted them. It’s obvious that no one accepts his/her crime so easily. That’s why I have recommended criminal action,” said Gohil.

Girijabala Singh reportedly said: “In the probe, some of the students who had failed sought to justify the difference between the marks mentioned in the tabulation chart and the same in their mark sheets, citing the grace marks rule.”

The committee submitted the final report to the director of the institute last month and it was presented on January 19 before the NLIU general council.

Higher Education Minister Jeetu Patwari, who also attended the general council meeting, said all the recommendations of the probe committee will be implemented. Law and Legislative Affairs minister, PC Sharma, said: “This is a serious matter like the Vyapam scam. We will take strict action to save the sanctity of the institute.”

Those against whom FIRs have been recommended either refused to talk or pleaded innocence while talking to the media. Ranjit Singh, who was removed as assistant registrar last year, reportedly said: “I am fighting the case in High Court. I have no idea about the Gohil committee report.”

Library assistant Binoy Singh said his name was put on the report because he is Ranjit Singh’s brother. It was alleged that Binoy Singh used to contact failed students and fix a commission to get them passed, though his brother was the mastermind. Prof Tapan Mohanty said: “I have no idea about my name in the probe committee.” Assistant registrar Ravi Pandey said: “I can’t comment about it at this stage.”

Former NLIU employee Rajshekhar only said he had recorded his statement before the Gohil committee. Former exam superintendent Prof UP Singh also said the same. Exam section employee Kamlesh Shrivas refused to comment on the matter.

In view of the serious indictment of the NLIU’s examination malpractices, it has now decided to scrutinise 8,000 mark sheets. Girijabala Singh said: “This is a very serious matter. The credibility and integrity of NLIU is at stake. To clear all doubts from the minds of people, the administration has decided to scrutinise the mark sheets and degrees of all pass-out students.” The University will check the marks from 1998 to 2015. Similarly, degree records from 2003 to 2015 will also be checked.

Such a huge loss of face for an esteemed institution has posed a challenge before the Congress government. Now all eyes are on Chief Minister Kamal Nath to see how seriously he implements the recommendations of the Gohil panel.

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