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HT Correspondent , Hindustan Times
Chandigarh, August 22, 2013
Reversing the order of a trial court acquitting four persons, district and sessions judge SK Aggarwal on Thursday convicted four persons, including two former Panjab University (PU) employees, for preparing and possessing fake degrees. Those convicted are Swarn Singh and Lakshman, former employees of PU, along with Gurdev Singh of Sector 55, and Malkh Singh of Phase 7, SAS Nagar.

Reversing the order of judicial magistrate Manisha Jain dated April 6, 2009, Aggarwal on Thursday awarded three-year jail each to Swarn and Lakshman for preparing fake documents, while Gurdev and Malkh got two-year imprisonment each for possessing fake documents.

The crime branch of UT police had arrested these four persons on allegations of preparing and selling fake degrees and registered a case of theft, forgery and cheating against them on September 11, 1999. The police had seized fake certificates from the accused.

As per the prosecution, Lakshman was the kingpin of the scam, and with his arrest police had recovered fake degrees and a few seals. Prosecution also submitted that the members of the gang had been forging degrees and certificates for any undergraduate or postgraduate class under the seal of PU and Punjab School Education Board (PSEB). The accused used to charge anything between Rs. 7,000 and Rs. 10,000.

Prosecution had suffered a setback when the trial court had acquitted all accused stating that the handwriting experts report was not corroborated with independent evidence nor the beneficiaries were identified by the police to prove that the degrees were sold by the accused. Thereafter, the prosecution had filed an appeal challenging the acquittal.

During the appeal, the prosecution to corroborate charges against the accused pointed that the experts report had proved that the signatures on the degrees matched with the handwriting samples of accused Lakshman and Swarn. The prosecution proved that Gurdev and Malkh Singh possessed the fake documents as recoveries were made on their disclosure statements.