A Mumbai University student, who claims that he cleared a first-year Bachelor in Engineering (BE) paper by paying Rs 20,000 to an agent, has moved the Bombay High Court seeking directions to the university to revoke his degree.
Vaibhav Patil, 26, has approached the court as a last resort after spending three years knocking on every door in the university. But every department either asked him to seek psychiatric help or requested him see an in-house counsellor.
Vaibhav, who secured his BE degree with IT specialisation 2011, has been so guilt-ridden that he has not taken up a job yet and has spent all his time chasing university officials to have the degree certificate junked.
His single-minded pursuit of setting a wrong he committed in 2009 right led his family at one point to seeking psychiatric treatment for him and he was put on a course of anti-depressants by a doctor in Jalgaon, his home town. Speaking exclusively to Mumbai Mirror on Tuesday on the condition that his picture will not be carried in the paper, Vaibhav said all the pills either went into the bin or were chucked out of the window. “I knew there was nothing wrong with me but I had committed a wrong that had to be set right and that was it,” he said.
Vaibhav failed in Maths – II paper in the first year. While he could have cleared the subject the next year, his friends advised him to contact an ‘agent’ who would get it done for him. “I was vulnerable. I was in a state of shock after flunking the paper,” Vaibhav recalls.
He paid around Rs 20,000 to an agent and managed to clear the subject easily. Though he managed to clear all subjects in the subsequent years fair and clear, the guilt of how he had gotten through the first year stayed. “I always felt that I had cheated my conscience,” said Vaibhav.
As soon as he got the degree, he began writing to university authorities, requesting that his degree be quashed. “I wrote to the office of the vice-chancellor, the Students Welfare Department, and every other possible authority but could not get any response. Wherever I went, people asked me to see a psychiatrist or a counsellor and asked me to get rid of the guilt,” he said.
In 2014, Vaibhav decided to move the Bombay High Court to get rid of the tainted degree. But here too he faced several hurdles. At least a dozen lawyers refused to take up his case because it looked like a losing proposition to them. Eventually, one lawyer agreed to draft his petition, but that too on the condition of anonymity. The petition was filed in August 2014 and was admitted in September the same year. Its next hearing is due on September 20. In all the hearings that have taken place so far, Vaibhav has represented himself.
Admitting that Vaibhav has been in touch with the university with a hitherto unheard of request, M A Khan, registrar, University of Mumbai, said the institute has faced two problems – one, he is not willing to reveal how he cheated; two, the university has no provision to revoke a degree upon a student’s request under the Maharashtra Universities Act.
“While the act has provisions for the university to cancel a degree if it is found to be fake, there is no provision to take such a step upon a student’s request,” said Khan. He, however, said the degree can be revoked if the Academic Council passes a resolution to the effect. But for the Academic Council to do that, Vaibhav will have to produce proof that he did cheat and also reveal how it was done.
But Vaibhav is undeterred. “If I reveal the agent’s identity a lot of other students may get into trouble. All I want is that students should know what I have been through. I want to send out the message that nothing is worth achieving when you get it through wrong means. I have learnt my lesson and hope that others do too,” he added.