Context

  • Individuals who secured government employment and got academic admissions under reserved categories with the help of forged caste certificates can have their jobs and admission declared invalid, the Supreme Court held on Thursday.
  • The government had informed the Lok Sabha in March that 1,832 appointments were allegedly secured on the basis of fake caste certificates.

The 2014 High Court decision

  • Bombay High Court gave a verdict that public servants who got their jobs using forged caste certificates and have spent considerable time in service can be afforded protection.
  • The High Court had opined that such individuals could be allowed to keep their jobs.
  • Mere invalidation of the caste claim by the Scrutiny Committee would not entail the cancellation of appointments that have become final, the HC had concluded.
  • Refusing or granting protection in the employment either at the preliminary stage or at the promotional stage, is not feasible.
  • The tactic has to be practical and pragmatic rather than technical and finicky keeping in view the object.

No protection for fake certificate holders

  • A Bench of Chief Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice D.Y. Chandrachud differed with a Bombay High Court decision in 2014.
  • The new verdict came on a batch of petitions filed against the High Court’s December 2014 judgment.
  • The Supreme Court, however, said the findings of its verdict would not be made applicable with retrospective effect.
  • The move assumes significance as over 1800 appointments, a majority of them in financial sectors, like public sector banks and insurance companies will be under scrutiny.

Sources of fake certificates

  • Rackets operate across the country offering fake certificates.
  • Based on the kind of qualification required, prices range from Rs 15,000 up to Rs 1 lakh a certificate.
  • These rackets are estimated to have a revenue of Rs 50- 80 crore annually, say education consultants.
  • Fake caste certificates are created using information from genuine certificates issued by universities concerned that these rackets source through touts and unauthorized means.
  • There is a new generation of fake degrees available which include correct serial numbers and falsified student records.
  • Not only would this make them much more difficult to detect, but also it suggests that the counterfeiters have managed to get inside a university, either by hacking into its systems or having someone on the inside.

Causes

  • Any degree is a valuable service, which means that for some people the idea of falsely claiming one can be too tempting to resist.
  • Apart from legitimately graduating from a university, there are only two ways to obtain a degree certificate.
  • One can either buy a real certificate from a fake university, or buy a fake certificate that pretends to be from a real university.
  • Both kinds are easy to find on the internet, although the sites which offer to help one create fake certificates are careful to include a disclaimer stating that they are ‘novelty’ products.
  • The easy availability is one of the prime cause of fake certificates. Internet has become the generator of such sites.
  • Poverty is also a cause, since getting through private universities becomes difficult for those with low incomes, individuals end up to these platforms.

Government Policy: National Academic Depository (NAD) Bill

  • The only solution available lies in a lapsed bill, proposed by the then United Progressive Alliance government in 2011 which is still waiting for its turn to be reintroduced in the Parliament.
  • The National Academic Depository Bill, 2011 was introduced in the Lok Sabha on September 5, 2011 by the Minister of Human Resource Development, Shri Kapil Sibal.
  • The Bill was later referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resource Development, which is scheduled to submit the report within three months.
  • The Bill seeks to institute a national database of academic awards in electronic format, which can be verified and authenticated.
  • The central government shall appoint a depository as the National Academic Depository to establish and maintain the national database.
  • The Bill makes 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.
  • The depository shall provide training to the staff of the academic institution and recover a reasonable cost of the training.
  • Disputes regarding cost shall be adjudicated by the State Educational Tribunal.
  • Not only verification, the database will make it easier for employers to verify and students to obtain duplicates or attested copies of their mark sheets.
  • Subsequently post implementation, all degrees will carry a 2D barcode, which will provide authentic details upon scanning even if the physical degree has been tampered with.
  • The bill was anticipated to cover as many as 650 universities, 38,000 colleges and one million schools.
  • The bill also encores the dream of “Digital India” that Mr. Modi visions.

Why is NAD stuck?

  • The Standing committee took over a year to come up with its recommendations.
  • The committee came up with recommendations with exorbitant fine for those tampering with the system reaching up to Rs one crore be replaced with the relevant provisions of the IT Act instead.
  • The depository also took care of sports and extracurricular certifications.
  • The bill however, lapsed as soon it came up with its first report.
  • The bill is topic of discussion at the house but is getting dragged not passed.

Way ahead

  • The only way out from this menace of fake certificates for the government is to build a robust, efficient as well as a trustworthy digital portal which is safe from hackers, is going to be an uphill task.
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