Monday, June 14, 2010

Forging academic certificates may attract stiff penalties

Faking academic certificates may soon attract a fine of up to Rs.10 crore (Rs. 100 million) and a jail term of up to 10 years under a draft law to build an online depository of certificates issued by all recognized educational institutions in India. Currently, people who run rackets offering counterfeit certificates, institute officials who help them, and students who procure them face just a few months' imprisonment and a few thousand rupees as a fine. Though no statistics are available, officials of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), which oversees education in India, say the incidence of forging academic certificates has increased with improving technology.

According to First Advantage Pvt. Ltd, a background screening firm, at least 15% of resumes they checked last year had false information, creating the need for such a database, as reported by Mint on 25 March. The Bill to create a National Academic Depository, likely to be tabled in Parliament in a couple of months, will include provisions to give stringent punishment to those who forge certificates, two ministry officials said. "Any forgery of certificates will cost an institute management or a group of people jail term up to 10 years. The management can also get a penalty of up to Rs. 10 crore, or both, for doing this illegal activity", one official said.

More than 22,000 recognized colleges, 470 universities, thousands of technical institutes, and school boards across the country will be able to submit copies of the certificates they have issued to build the academic e-depository.
They will be charged for the service. The move will allow institutions and offices to check the academic history of those who apply for admissions or jobs for a fee. Students, too, will no longer have to worry about losing or misplacing their certificates, the official said. For a nominal charge, they will have lifelong access to the online certificates from anywhere in the world. Around 2.54 million students earn a graduate or post-graduate degree every year, in addition to 9.5 million students who clear their secondary school examinations.

"We have now invited suggestions (regarding the draft law) from various stakeholders, including central government departments, and after getting their input, we will go ahead with the provisions", another ministry official said.

The National Academic Depository will be maintained by one of the two depository managers that are registered with markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India, National Securities Depository Ltd. and Central Depository Services (India) Ltd. The depository managers will be responsible for ensuring the sanctitiy of the certificates, and any interpolation --- even on accout of a technical glitch --- can attract a fine of up to Rs. 50,00,000, MHRD officials said.

Article by Prashant K. Nanda in Mint, June 14, 2010

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