Publication
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This article is written by Shankar Raheja, pursuing a Certificate Course in Advanced Civil Litigation: Practice, Procedure and Drafting from LawSikho.

Introduction

The Indian medical association in the recent past questioned the validity of the ‘first evidence-based medicine’ for Covid-19, ‘Coronil’. The IMA and the WHO refuted the false claims made by Patanjali Ayurveda for giving any certificate regarding its effective treatment for Covid-19. The IMA claimed that the drug had been launched in a hurry, due to which the sale of the same has been banned without proper certification from a competent health organization like the IMA and WHO. Baba Ramdev was accused of misleading people by making unlearned remarks about the claimed cure for covid which was later taken down from him. This is a clear instance of how a false publication can be misleading and have grave consequences.

Information on the net is enormous as an ocean of knowledge acquired from times immemorial and same can be used for research of titles and information; however, the same is not for publication as your own. It is not uncommon these days in the field of biomedical where research data is falsified and fabricated or introduced as one’s own without having undertaken any research on the subject.  Publication fraud, dishonesty, and deceit can occur in numerous ways and can have hazardous consequences. In this article, we will discuss the conditions that amount to dishonest and fraudulent publications and what are the consequences of the same.

When is it a fraudulent purpose? 

A fraud can be termed as an intentional deception to secure unfair or unlawful gain or to deprive a victim of a legal right. 

The purpose of fraud may be a monetary gain or other benefits, for instance obtaining a passport, travel document or a driver’s license, where the person may make an attempt to qualify for a subject by way of falsified documents. Fraud may be a civil wrong as well as a criminal wrong. As a civil wrong, fraud is a tort, which usually results in reversal of the agreement or a recovery of the monetary damage caused. Whereas, as a criminal wrong, fraud takes many different forms such as bank fraud, insurance fraud and forgery.  

A fraud publication can be either intentional or unintentional. It can happen in several ways:

  1. When errors on inconsistencies occur in analysing data, mostly as a result of negligence or carelessness. However, this can have severe adverse impact if such false data is published and available for public use. It can be a tort amounting to malfeasance.
  2. The more serious form is when intentionally, premeditated and manipulated data is published with an intention to mislead. For example, a pharmaceutical company manufacturing a medicine of exclusive composition publishes a paper reflecting that the medicine can cure a particular disease, whereas it cannot. These amount to fabricating and falsifying data and can attract criminal liabilities.
  3. Other than these, making documents for fraudulent purposes amounts to cheating and is punishable under Sections 420, Section 423 and Section 424 of the Indian penal Code. Let us see a few cases that would come under this kind of a fraud:
  • In the case of Sheila Sebastian vs. R. Jawaharaj, Mrs. Doris Victor (deceased mother of the appellant) was the owner of a few plots in the Valliyoor Village. The appellant claimed that the accused with the help of another aid who posed as Mrs. Doris created a power of attorney in his name as if he was her agent. Using the power of attorney Jawaharaj tried to transfer the property of the appellant by executing a mortgage deed in favour of his aid for Rs.50,000/-. The appellant found out about this fraud, she filed an FIR under sections 420, section 423 and section 424 of the Indian penal Code. 

The Supreme Court, in this case, ruled that the command of forgery cannot be imposed on a person who is not a maker of the same. 

  • Md. Ibrahim & Ors vs. State of Bihar & Anr was a case wherein the accused who had no connection with the land and who had no title thereto, had executed two registered sale deeds in favour of his aid. And his other 3 aids being the witness, scribe and stamp vendor in regard to the sale deeds had conspired to forge the said documents; and that when he confronted the accused about the said forgery, they abused him and hit him with fists and told him that he can do what he wanted, but they will get possession of the land on the basis of the said documents.

The Supreme Court held that to get a condemnation under Section 465 of IPC false documents must have been made with an intention.

  • In the case of Mir Nagvi Askari vs. CBI, the accused were charged with abuse of their position and acting dishonestly and fraudulently. They were said to have prepared false documents and used them as genuine ones, with the intention to defraud and falsify entries in the books of accounts of the Bank.

The Reserve Bank of India appointed a committee known as the Jankiraman Committee hence the alleged security scam came to light.

The Supreme Court held that the document has been falsified with the intention of making it be believed that such document has been made by a person, by whom the person falsifying the document knows that it was not made. Clearly, the document in question in the present case, even it to be believed that they were made by or under the authorisation of someone else.

Conditions amounting to Dishonest Intention 

Another problem arises when we start copying others’ work without verifying the authority. The work can either be fraudulent in itself, and even if it’s not, we are any which way committing plagiarism or copyright infringement. As COVID-19 hit us and most of us got locked inside our houses, suddenly everything shifted to online platforms be it work, or entertainment. And the more we have started depending on the Internet. Needless to state that whenever we need any information or need to research, we spontaneously refer to the search engine who through use of available data or artificial intelligence solve the issue in a few minutes. But there is a huge difference between taking the help of the internet and copying our content from the internet. We find loads of content on the internet which is prepared by many authors on numerous topics. How can the work of these authors assist us in our research? 

We can still access their work for taking up ideas, we don’t have much access to books nowadays, hence we can use the internet to gather information from a number of resources. The main gist is not to replicate from the internet, we can read the content, and interpret it in our own words and if we choose to state any definitions or sections in the article, then we can certainly look up to those definitions and make sure that we provide the definitions with the required footnote or the required reference links. 

There is a committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) which lists down the guidelines and the required conditions which are to be adhered to. According to the US Federal policy there are three common Publication misconduct inter alia plagiarisms, fabrication and falsification. Fabrication and falsification of research data is a serious issue having critical and severe consequences which are dealt hereinabove.

These are the certain conditions which makes our article not eligible to publication:

  1. Article assessment- the articles are subject to a review from an experienced editor, who checks whether or not the article meets the standards of the set benchmark. Whether it is unique and original and not replicated or duplicated.
  2. Plagiarism- authors use the sentences which are already stated in other articles, the content is to be original and not copied. There is a specified percentage plagiarism which is permitted by each publisher, it may vary from publisher to publisher. 
  3. Citation manipulation- falsely showcasing facts which are not true might lead to disqualification of the article.
  4. Acknowledgements- The author who contributed to the article is to be given the required credit by citing him/her in the references section.
  5. Intention- if the author doesn’t have any fraudulent intent, then he/she may be spared from the consequences. 

Consequences

Reputational impact

Plagiarism or false representation of facts and words can lead to suspension or expulsion from the university or the organisation they are working in. Nowadays, due to the excess usage of the internet, schools’ colleges and universities are taking plagiarism very seriously. Many universities have a committee for this very specific purpose. 

A professional working person whether it be a businessman or a public figure or a person working in an MNC, if they are found guilty of publishing plagiarised/ copied content then they are likely to be fired or are asked to step down from the position they currently hold, which will definitely reflect in their curriculum vitae. Depending on the offense and the status of the person committing the offence, it would affect their name in the public, making it very difficult to build a career up ahead. 

Legal obligations 

Publishing with a dishonest intent can be quite a serious crime. Copyright laws are absolute. Section 63 of the Indian Copyright Act, 1957 considers infringement as the criminal offence and awards the same punishment for both i.e., the violation of Section 57 and the copyright infringement. The convicted infringers are awarded imprisonment that ranges between six months to three years under section 63 of the Act. 

Such an offense would lead to violation of copyright infringement. An author cannot use other author’s material without certain citations and references, else the plagiarist can be sued by the Author for deceit under the Indian Penal Code. It is imperative that the plagiarist has to have the dishonest intention to misrepresent the research finding and or articles as to his own and not erroneously. Under the US laws the author is accorded “moral rights” and this term typically refers to the right of an author to prevent revision, alteration, or distortion of her work, regardless of who owns the work or who has to the copyright registered under their name and the same is also covered under Section 57 of Indian Copyright Act.   

Other than that in a civil suit, one can resort to remedies of injunction, damages, delivering accounts of profits, etc.

Financial impact  

Many news reports and articles have exposed plagiarism by journalists, authors and researchers. In a case where the author sues a plagiarist, the author may be granted monetary compensation by the plagiarist for misusing the documents he published and forging his documents to be true and correct. If the author works for a known magazine or a newspaper, or even if a student is found plagiarising in a university, the offending plagiarist is subject to pay the monetary penalties to the author. 

Plagiarised research 

If the research is related to medicines in nature, the consequences of plagiarism could mean the loss of peoples’ lives. This kind of plagiarism is particularly heinous. The consequences of plagiarism are widespread and no one can be absolved from its liability. Ignorance is not an excuse against the ramifications of committing plagiarism. Before attempting any writing project, learn about plagiarism. Find out what constitutes plagiarism and how to avoid it. The rules are easy to understand and follow. If there is any question about missing attribution, try using an online plagiarism checker for plagiarism detection software to check your writing for plagiarism before turning it in. Lethargic approach or dishonest intention can ruin and tarnish the reputation resulting in the loss of a career and never-ending litigation. 

Publications of Scientific Research data

In the era of the internet, there are multiple tools available to aid and facilitate the detection of infringement of copyrights, duplication including redundant publication or plagiarism and multiple publications on biomedical research. In the past various cases have been reported wherein scientific research data is smudged, faked and made up of the data resulting in disrepute to the person. Scientific frauds are the most common form of publication fraud wherein the data is falsified and fabricated. Few illustrations are as follows:

  1. Dutch Psychologist Diederik Stapel who faked data and falsified experiments;
  2. Hwang Woo Suk, a South Korean researcher who claimed that human stem cells had been extracted from cloned embryos however it was revealed this was completely fabricated;
  3. Harvard University psychologist, Marc Hauser had made false statements about experimental methods that turned out to be entirely fabricated and falsified data and internal investigation found him solely responsible and resulting in serious doubts on hundreds of published studies.

The list goes on as it takes an extremely long time to investigate the fraud in the field of science and research and due to contamination by incorrect research results. For obvious reasons it is nearly impossible to track research fraud or altered data due to lack of transparency and questionable practices in pharma and biomedical industries. Simultaneously it is to be noted that the fraud can be multi-layered and therefore not at all easy to spot. At times the fraud or manipulations of data are mere adjustments to suit the author’s convenience or studies to achieve the desired consequences to avail the grants from the government or university. Classic example is the case of Andrew Wakefield, a physician whose publication in a medical journal revealed a relation between autism and the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine. However, an investigation a decade later revealed that the author had altered data and facts about the subjects in their study to arrive at the desired and concocted results.

Conclusion 

The copying of another’s ideas without giving credit to the actual owner of the idea is said to be plagiarism. Plagiarism in the normal sense is considered as an unethical issue but not a CRIME.

As someone else’s work or ideas are misrepresented as one’s own work, so it amounts to “Fraud”.

When the act is coupled dishonestly it shows the ingredients of “Cheating”.

When a substantial portion of the copyrighted work is copied without the permission and knowledge then it amounts to criminal proceedings. It will amount to both the copyright infringement and the violation of “special right” of the author to be credited.

The intention is the essence of the offence of forgery. To constitute it, some damage or injury must be intended to be caused by the false document published by an individual to the public. This is the crux of Section 463 of the IPC. 

Next in line would be the subject of dishonesty or intention to fraud, Section 463 and Section 464 of the IPC are interlinked, for any crime to be considered as a fraud, all the conditions stated in both the sections need to be fulfilled. 

References


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