CHANDIGARH: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is undoubtedly one of the most distinguished students to have ever studied at Punjab University. But his name seems to be curiously missing from a list of those given an honorary doctorate of law degree.
A Right to Information (RTI) inquiry by activist Rajinder K Singla shows that the Prime Minister's name does not figure in the list of those honoured by the university with a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa) degree since 1949.
However, it's common knowledge that the university had organised a special convocation for its most distinguished student November 3, 2009, and conferred on him the same degree.
"The university had hosted a special convocation November 3, 2009, to award a Doctor of Laws (honoris causa), to Manmohan Singh, incurring huge public money for the event," Singla said.
"The registration branch of the university has disclosed that a total of 74 honoris causa doctorate degrees have been awarded by the university in the field of law, literature, science and oriental learning since 1949 till February 2011. As per the RTI reply, no individual has so far been awarded twice with such honorary degrees. Accordingly, Dr Manmohan Singh has been awarded with only D Litt on March 12, 1983, but not any Doctor of Laws," Singla said.
But the activist said that in the case of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh alone the university has conferred on the same person two degrees honoris causa - a Doctor of Literature (D Litt) and a Doctor of Laws.
"I cannot understand why the university is trying to hide information about conferring two honoris causa degrees on Manmohan Singh. I think that PU authorities take RTI information very casually," he said.
PU Registrar AK Bhandari, however, says it could be a factual error.
"The Doctor of Laws was awarded to the Prime Minister in 2009. It could be a case of factual error in the information provided through RTI," Bhandari admitted.
Singla also pointed out that even the Prime Minister's official website does not mention anything about his Doctor of Laws degree, though all other degrees are mentioned.
Manmohan Singh was a student at the university in the 1950s and later joined the Department of Economics. He went on to become a professor in the department at the young age of 32.
The university had in 2009 also announced the setting up of a Dr Manmohan Singh chair in the economics department - the first instance of a chair being established in the name of a living personality.
The university has so far awarded Doctor of Laws degree to 25 people, including the country's first home minister Vallabhbhai Patel (1949), former prime minister Indira Gandhi (1973), former prime minister Inder Kumar Gujral (1999) and Union Minister Kapil Sibal (2006), among others.