Thesis cheats beware! Academic plagiarism being made legal offence

  • Neelam Pandey, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 26, 2016 08:12 IST
A law to make plaigiarism a legal offence is being drafted by the UGC after a raft of plagiarism charges against central university vice-chancellors and teachers in the recent years. (Shutterstock)

The government plans to bring in a law to stop rampant plagiarism in academia, with punishment ranging from a warning to deregistration in the case of students and dismissal from service for teachers.

Higher education regulator University Grants Commission (UGC) is finalising a draft law — the first of its kind — that is likely to be sent to the human resource development ministry for further action by June-end. Official sources said the government intends to seek parliamentary approval for the law this year itself.

In the absence of a law, educational institutions deal with cases of plagiarism individually. Last year, the UGC made it mandatory for all universities to use anti-plagiarism software to check PhD theses.

There has been a raft of plagiarism charges against central university vice-chancellors and teachers in recent years.

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Pondicherry University V-C Chandra Krishnamurthy quit last month after a prolonged standoff with the HRD ministry, which had kept her on compulsory wait following allegations that she plagiarised large parts of a book mentioned in her CV.

The ministry recently sought Hyderabad Central University V-C Appa Rao Podile’s comments on allegations of plagiarism in research papers co-authored by him.

There have been similar charges against eminent scientists such as CNR Rao and RA Mashelkar in the past.

“A regulation is being prepared for prevention of plagiarism in higher education institutions that will focus on all categories, including students pursuing Masters, MPhil and PhD, and teachers at different levels,” said a senior UGC official.

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Students will be let off with a warning if it is a minor case of plagiarism. But as the gravity of the charge increases, they may be barred from submitting a revised manuscript of their thesis or research paper for six months or even have their registration cancelled, said sources privy to the draft law.

“We want to ensure intellectual honesty and academic integrity. There are different levels of punishment depending on seriousness. It could be an advisory, a letter of displeasure, censure (of teachers), et al. In some cases, we are including a provision that such teachers or researchers will not be allowed to publish for a certain period,” said a UGC source.

Former Delhi University V-C Deepak Pental — who faced plagiarism charges that he challenged in court — welcomed the move but said the UGC should not do it in isolation and, instead, consult the Indian National Science Academy and Indian Academy of Science, Bangalore.

“UGC should form a committee to formulate what is plagiarism. Put academic work through plagiarism software. Cut and paste has become very prominent. Sometimes, people do it inadvertently too. We need to work hard against plagiarism and focus on preventive rather than punitive action. If some one still does it, the punishment should come from the universities though legal recourse should be open too,” he said.

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