The unfolding scam, which involves university insiders, has exploited loopholes in the institute of distance education’s decision to allow people who had enrolled for degree programmes to write exams online to clear arrears from 1980-81.
The scamsters uploaded the applications of these students to write the exams by faking course completion certificates. They paid the exam fees and were given serial numbers that followed genuine candidates in each batch. The 117 students wrote and cleared the exams in December 2020. “Insiders in the university must have given the students the serial numbers that followed the genuine cases,” said an official of the institute.
‘Students paid racketeers Rs 3 lakh each for fake degrees’
Their game was up when some of the students who had cleared the December 2020 exam asked the university to release their degree certificates. Following protocol, the university checked whether they had paid the tuition fees for the courses they claimed to have attended. There was no record of their having paid tuition fees or their admission details.
Sources close to the developments, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said these students each paid around ₹3 lakh (tuition fees is around ₹20,000 per candidate) to those behind the racket.
An internal communication of the university – TOI has a copy – has a list of 117 candidates who wrote the exams without studying at the institute. The number could be more.
The internal communication said: “While verifying the Permanent Pass Register (PPR), some of the candidates’ names were not found in the tuition fee-cum-DCB register, and admission applications were missing from the admission section.” It sought permission from the university authorities to cancel the 117 candidates’ provisional/ convocation certificates and remove their names from the permanent pass register (PPR) of December 2020.
A senior professor of the university said agents for the university’s study centres that were shut down may have lured their old students to take advantage of pandemic relaxations for writing the exams. Students were allowed to write the exams from their homes without any supervision and to post or deposit the answer sheets hours later.
Professors said this could be a package deal where the touts might have employed third parties to write the exams as all the 117 candidates cleared their papers. They have asked the university to expand the scope of inquiry into the possible malpractices in the exam.
Madras university vice-chancellor S Gowri said the university will form an inquiry panel to probe the racket. “Some tried to take advantage of the online exam process. But, an internal verification process stopped this racket at the right time. The university will take strict action against those involved in the racket,” the vice-chancellor said.