Strange goings-on at Rajasthan University’s Physics Department

UPDATE!

The Rajasthan University website is suddenly “not available” – whatever that may imply.

A cached version of the page referred to below is here. (under the tab “Associate Professors”)

Update 2: The University website is up again and now updated. Presumably they went down to make the update.

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The University of Rajasthan has a reputation of being very feudal (even if it is ranked 41 in a list of 511 Indian Universities). On anecdotal evidence they allow quite vicious ragging of first-year students and harassment of female students is quite common. Clearly all is not well at the University and specifically in the Department of Physics. Not just the academic misconduct evident from the manipulation and fabrication of data leading to multiple retractions, but also nasty charges of sexual misconduct and blackmail against the same professors.

1. Academic misconduct. Associate Professor RK Singhal has the dubious distinction of having achieved his own “category” at Retraction Watch as reward for his four (five?) retractions (so far). In his latest transgression Retraction Watch reports:

Here’s a physics retraction whose use of an exclamation point — the only one we’ve ever seen in a retraction notice! — makes the editors’ exasperation palpable.

It’s also the the fourth retraction for R. K. Singhal, of the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, India. Behold the notice for “Magnetic behavior of functionally modified spinel Ni0.4Ca0.6Fe2O4 nanoferrite,” in the International Journal of Modern Physics B:

The editorial board discovered that the data points in several sections of the Moss-bauer spectra as given in Figs 3.(a) and 3(b) are exactly identical. This is impossible and nonphysical for the measurement of two different samples (or for that matter not even for the same sample!). The only conclusion we can draw from this figure is that some of the data is fabricated. As a result, the results and conclusions as described in the paper are unacceptable. This article is retracted from its publication in Int. J. Mod. Phys. B.

Prof. Singhal had to retract a 2010 paper and then he had to retract a correction to that retraction in 2013!!

Singhal and colleagues have another retraction — or two, depending how you look at it — in the Journal of Applied Physics. The journal has retracted a 2010 study, “Study of defect-induced ferromagnetism in hydrogenated anatase TiO2:Co,” but first they had to retract a 2013 correction of that study:

AIP Publishing LLC retracts this erratum because it was submitted and published without the knowledge of all the co-authors. Upon further investigation, it was found that the article that this erratum addressed warranted a retraction. Please also see the Retraction 1 associated with the original article.

Singhal’s colleague, Associate Professor SN Dolia of the same Department of Physics, was a co-author on the 4 Singhal papers retracted so far. They are both present as current faculty on Rajasthan University’s website. They have even had a physics paper retracted because their data was “unphysical”!!

2. Sexual Misconduct: But Singhal and Dolia have other problems to contend with. They are charged with extortion of sexual favours from a PhD student as a condition for being awarded her degree. They are said to have also fabricated obscene photographs to blackmail the student.

NDTV News: 30th June 2011.

In a huge embarrassment for teachers across the country, a professor at the Rajasthan University has been arrested for allegedly demanding sexual favours from his student.
The victim has alleged that her research guide Dr R K Singhal of the Physics department was harassing her for months.

The professor asked the girl to have sexual relations with him if she wanted to complete her PhD. Besides molesting her in February, Singhal and his colleague S N Dolia allegedly even blackmailed the student by morphing her face onto some obscene pictures. 
“While submitting her PhD thesis, the victim was asked for sexual favours by the teacher. Our preliminary investigation has found that the allegations are true and so we have arrested the Professor,” said BL Soni, Commissioner of Police, Jaipur. ….. Shockingly, despite the victim complaining about the teacher’s misconduct, the university authorities took no action initially. It was only after the girl lodged a police complaint that the accused teacher was arrested. Both Singhal and his colleague Dolia were later suspended from the university.
Besides suspending the two teachers, the university has also asked two retired Judges of the High Court to probe this shocking issue.

The legal mills in India grind on slowly and the case reached court in October 2013.

TOI: 16th October 2013.

JAIPUR: A court here on Tuesday framed charges against two assistant professors of University of Rajasthan (RU) who were accused of demanding sexual favours from a PhD student preparing thesis under their guidance.

The court of chief metropolitan magistrate (CMM) Bharat Bhushan Gupta, on Tuesday, framed charges against Dr Rishi Kumar Singhal and Dr S N Dolia under Sections 354, 341, 292 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 4/6 of the Indecent Representation of en (Prohibition) Act.

On June 27, 2011 a girl belonging to Bharatpur, registered an FIR against the two professors at the Gandhi Nagar police station. In her complaint, the girl alleged that her research guide, RK Singhal, from the Physics department was harassing her and forcing her to have sexual relations with him. He allegedly used to threaten the girl that if she did not do as she was told, he would not let her complete her PhD.

While charges have been framed, the court hearings have not yet – apparently – commenced.

But there is no news of any results from the University investigation or of any actions being taken by the University. Interestingly the supposed University investigation reported is about the sexual misconduct charges. Nothing is reported from the University about the academic misconduct.

My expectation is that the University will not have the courage to actually do anything or to take any kind of moral or ethical position themselves. They will merely slip-stream behind the legal proceedings to avoid having to do anything.

 

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