The High Court has inquired about how PhD research papers submitted to Dhaka University (DU) are archived and whether any software or advanced technology are used in their assessment and evaluation.
A High Court bench of Justices JBM Hasan and Md Khairul Alam on Monday asked the university authorities to respond in two months.
The petitioner's lawyer Moniruzzaman Lincoln appeared in court for the appeal, while Deputy Attorney General ABM Abdullah Al Mahmoud Bashar represented the state.
Lincoln filed a writ petition, attaching a news report published last year on January 21 in a national daily, under the headline "98% of DU teacher's PhD research is fake".
Following the hearing of the writ petition, on February 4, the court directed the University Grants Commission (UGC) to submit a report (in three months) outlining how PhD and equivalent degrees are awarded in public and private universities.
At the same time, the High Court directed the DU authorities to investigate the allegations raised in the news article and submit a report to the court within 60 days.
In complying with the order, both the DU and the UGC submitted their reports to the court.
After Monday's hearing, Deputy Attorney General Bashar told journalists that an inquiry committee had been formed as per the order and the investigation is underway.
Meanwhile, the court granted a time extension upon receipt of a petition filed by the state lawyers.
According to the UGC report submitted to the court, the country's public universities offer higher degrees, including MPhil and PhD, in accordance with their own laws, rules, regulations, statutes, and policies. The commission has no role to play in this regard.
With regards to private universities, the report stated there are currently 107 government-approved private universities in the country.
"Among them, educational activities are currently being conducted in 97 private universities. Thus far, the commission has not granted approval to any private university to offer MPhil and PhD programmes," read the UGC report.
The news report attached to the writ petition mentioned that Abul Kalam Lutful Kabir, an associate professor of the Department of Pharmaceutical Technology at the DU, was awarded a PhD degree after submitting a research paper that was 98% plagiarized.
The co-supervisor of the research complained that despite repeated requests, Lutful Kabir did not give him a copy of the thesis.
In 2014, Abul Kalam Lutful Kabir started work on the article titled "Tuberculosis and HIV Co-relation and Co-Infection in Bangladesh: An Exploration of their Impacts on Public Health".
Professors Abu Shara Shamsur Rouf of the Department of Pharmaceutical Technology and Professor ABM Faroque, a senior faculty member of the same department, were Kabir's supervisor and co-supervisor respectively.
In September 2019, a researcher filed a written complaint with DU Vice-Chancellor Professor Md Akhtaruzzaman after he discovered that 98% of Kabir's research had been directly plagiarised.
Jonas Nilsson, a professor at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, also wrote a letter to the vice-chancellor, urging him to take legal action against Lutful Kabir for allegedly stealing from his study.
The reference was verified by Turnitin, a globally reputed software that detects research piracy.
According to the newspaper report, Lutful Kabir's article was 98% identical to a 2012 paper submitted by a student researcher at Brac University in the capital.
Furthermore, similarities have been identified with 17 journals, articles, and research papers, all of which were published prior to Lutful Kabir's submission.