Issues

Watch out for the fake!

Counterfeit: Seized fake degree certificates and rubber stamps. Photo: P.V. Sivakumar  

An open advertisement on the Internet says: “Are you looking to trick somebody into thinking you have a degree or need to replace a lost or damaged degree from a college or university in India? Diploma Company can help! We stock genuine diploma degree templates from actual schools in India — hundreds of designs available! You won't find a more realistic-looking novelty document anywhere! Our fake India college degrees are available as diploma certificates, transcripts or packages which contain both documents at a discounted rate!”

Claiming that they create certificates for schools both in India and abroad, the advertisers even quoted a price with a discount on 13 per cent.

The advertisement further says: “This is the BEST package! Get an authentic replica college diploma, designed after actual students, issued college diploma from an Indian college or university of your choice along with a set of degree, transcripts which highlight course needed to obtain your degree and matching transcripts also feature college seals and signatures — this is everything you need!”

This open advertisement only goes on to show that there are several fraudulent organisations behind the racket of fake certificates in the academic sphere. Reports emerging from time to time of so-called doctors with fake certificates of MBBS and other medical degrees are a worrisome trend.

It was to check this malpractice that the government introduced the National Academic Depository Bill in the Lok Sabha last year. The Bill was later referred to the Standing Committee which submitted its report early this year.

The provisions of the proposed Bill provide for the establishment of a national database of academic awards in electronic format, which can be verified and authenticated. It provides for the appointment of a National Academic Depository to establish and maintain the national database.

The Bill also proposed to make it mandatory for every academic institution (college, university and boards that award Class X and XII certificates) to lodge every academic award with the depository.

If the depository makes a request, an academic institution has to verify within seven days that the award was issued by the institution under the provisions of the proposed Bill.

Any person can apply to the depository or a registered agent to verify and authenticate any specific award and the depository will inform the person within three days whether the award could be verified and authenticated.

The proposed Bill says that the depository will be authorised to begin operations only when it is satisfied that there are adequate systems for storage and retrieval of records from the national database as well as safeguards are put in place to ensure that its automatic data processing system is secure.

The Bill lists various offences and penalties, including a fine of up to Rs. one crore if any unauthorised person accesses the database, downloads or damages any data or introduces computer viruses, and proposes the setting up of National Educational Tribunal to adjudicate such cases.

The Standing Committee in its report has suggested certain modifications in the Bill before it is passed. Some of these include a regulatory authority for the National Academic Depository (NAD) and the national database and more stringent criteria for registration of agents by NAD.

The Committee has also suggested that the seven days time limit given for verification/authentication of academic Awards by NAD be reviewed after six months of commencement of the legislation to see if it can be reduced. It has also advised that academic awards of previous 10 years be mandatorily lodged after verification.

This is necessary because such persons may still be in the job market and would benefit from such a service.

The panel has proposed that certain sections of the IT Act related to penalties and adjudication mechanism be included in the Bill.


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Printable version | Jan 19, 2022 2:12:28 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/education/issues/watch-out-for-the-fake/article3807971.ece

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