Majority of 2011 paper co-authored by criminal law committee member is plagiarised

11 July, 2021

Several sections of a paper co-authored by Balraj Chauhan—a member of the home ministry’s Committee for Reforms in Criminal Laws—are plagiarised. The paper, titled “Good Governance: Search for Accountability Mechanism,” was published in the Indian Journal of Public Administration in October 2011.

Chauhan was the vice chancellor of Dharmashastra National Law University in Madhya Pradesh’s Jabalpur until mid-June this year. Chauhan’s co-author, Mridul Srivastava, is an assistant registrar at the Dr Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University in Lucknow. The IJPA is a peer-reviewed journal of the Indian Institute of Public Administration, which describes itself as an autonomous academic institution. Chauhan and Srivastava’s paper is a little over 4,500 words long. Of these, at least 3,500 words had previously appeared in other publications, written by other authors, and only about a little over nine hundred words appear to be original.

The CRCL is a committee that the ministry of home affairs has constituted to review India’s criminal laws. On its website, the committee says that it “endeavours to recommend reforms” to India’s criminal laws “in a principled, effective, and efficient manner.” However, lawyers, activists and academics criticised the constitution of the committee for not being representative of the country, and not including members who are Dalits, Adivasis or from other marginalised communities.

Chauhan’s paper reproduces large sections of a 1999 paper by Ngaire Woods, an academic who was at the time a lecturer in international relations at Oxford University. Woods is presently the dean of the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford. Her paper, titled “Good Governance in International Organizations,” was published in volume 5 of the journal “Global Governance” in its January–March 1999 issue. Chauhan’s paper uses entire sections from Woods’ paper without citing or crediting it.

In fact, Chauhan’s paper does not contain any citations in the body of the paper. However, Chauhan’s paper has a list at the end titled “A Select Reading,” which mentions another paper by Woods. Chauhan’s paper says: “The paper here draws on research completed for the Group of Twenty Four and published as Ngaire Woods, Governance in International Organizations: The Case for Reform in the Bretton Woods Institutions· in UNCTAD/Group of Twenty-Four, International Monetary and Financial Issues for the 1990s. Volume IX (Geneva; United Nations, 1998).” This sentence also appears to be copied exactly from a citation at the end of Woods’ 1999 paper, which referred to her own past work.

In other instances too, entire paragraphs in Chauhan’s paper have featured in previously published work without being cited. Chauhan’s paper features 760 words, with minor variations, from “Bureaucracy and Public Administration,” a book authored by Rajeshwar Trikha, published in 2009 by Jaipur-based ABD Publishers.

I spoke to Debora Weber-Wulff, the author of False Feathers: A Perspective on Academic Plagiarism and a professor at the University of Applied Sciences in Berlin, Germany. She looked at Chauhan’s paper and juxtaposed it with Woods’ 1999 paper and Trikha’s book. Based on her review, Weber-Wulff called this a case of “extensive plagiarism,” exclaiming at the similarity in the texts. “The words are even being taken—it’s not just the ideas,” she said.

Referring to Chauhan and Srivastava, she said, “If you begin reading this, you would think this is the two authors talking to you, but actually it’s Woods talking to you and not these two authors. Because they have taken this on a very large scale, an enormous amount of material.” Weber-Wulff further called the lack of citation “problematic” and did not think that Chauhan’s mention of Woods’ 1998 paper was an appropriate form of academic crediting. Commenting on whether “A Select Reading list” was an acceptable form of citation, she added, “Those are not even references. There’s nothing in the text showing where it was taken from. Even if you put the reference in the reference section, you absolutely must say where you got it from in the text.”

While comparing Woods’ and Chauhan’s papers, she further commented on the plagiarised sentences. In one instance, Weber-Wulff pointed out that words in a particular sentence that Chauhan had used were just a rearrangement of the words Woods’s had used in a sentence—she characterised such instances as plagiarism. In another instance, she commented on how just the spelling of words had been changed from American English to British English. “That’s not enough to make anything your own,” she said. “This you can see here is blatant plagiarism, it’s blatant copying.” Weber-Wulff added, “I would contact the publication and see whether they would consider rescinding it, retracting the paper, because it’s plagiarism.”

 I contacted Chauhan multiple times for a comment. “I am not in a position to make any comment because it is an old thing and it is co [authored],” he said. “Had it been my article, I would have given you each and every detail.” Referring to Shrivastava, and describing him as a junior, Chauhan added, “You talk to him first.” When asked why there are no citations in the paper as per academic standard, and only a reading list at the end, Chauhan said, “It's a different style. It’s not a research paper, it’s information. Our style was different 10–11 years ago.”

Shrivastava did not respond to queries seeking comment. When contacted again, Chauhan said, “I won’t make any comment unless I am clear about the issue. Any article that was 10 years ago, how one can remember what was going on in the mind?” Explaining why there are no “footnotes” in the paper, he reiterated that this was not a “research” paper. “Research articles are different,” he said. “This is just a simple article written for informing the readers.” IIPA also did not respond to questions seeking comment.

The following screenshots are from the Chauhan’s paper, listed chronologically. The description underneath each screenshot details where the sentences in the image were published before.

In June 2010, the African Journal of Political Science and International Relations published a research paper titled, “Democracy and good governance: Nigeria’s dilemma,” authored by Ilufoye Sarafa Ogundiya. The research paper mentioned, “According to Madhav (2007) good governance has much to do with the ethical grounding of governance and must be evaluated with reference to specific norms and objectives as may be laid down. It looks at the functioning of the given segment of the society from the point of view of its acknowledged stakeholders, beneficiaries and customers. It must have firm moorings to certain moral values and principles.”

Ogundiya’s 2010 paper also included this segment, citing Madhav again. “Good governance, as a concept, is applicable to all sections of society such as the government, legislature, judiciary, media, private sector, corporate sector, trade unions and lastly non-government organisations (NGOs). Public accountability and transparency are as relevant for the one as for the other. It is only when all these and various other sections of society conduct their affairs in a socially responsible manner that the objective of achieving larger good of the largest number of people in society can be achieved (Madhav, 2007).”

The same paragraph appears in a 2009 paper titled, “Espousing Effective Performance Audit For Good Governance in India,” authored by Smita Shrivastava and published in the Indian Journal of Political Science. Shrivastava’s paper cites a 2002 speech by N Vittal, a former central vigilance commissioner, as a source for the paragraph. This paragraph also appears in Trikha’s “Bureaucracy and Public Administration.”

Almost two pages of Chauhan’s paper figure in Trikha’s 2009 book, “Bureaucracy and Public Administration,” with slight variations. Trikha writes in his book:

“The issues in the decentralised sectors such as those pertaining to the panchayat raj institutions and municipal bodies themselves call for a similar in-depth study. In the perception of a common person, the government is seen to be exploitative. From the viewpoint of the citizens, government epitomises corruption, inordinate delays, long- winded procedures, lack of transparency, and extreme rudeness and insensitivity, often bordering on callousness. As the experience shows, it is not easy to tame this wild animal. There are no shortcuts or easy answers. For any perceptible results to be achieved, the exercise will call for political and administrative will of the highest order, apart from all ingenuity, innovativeness and persistence, none of which have been particularly evident so far.

As the term good governance implies, it assumes that there is a government which would like to govern with a firm hand. Its writ must run and should be acknowledged and the people should not take the government for granted. In practical terms, it would mean the government taking all actions to retain its firm hold over people, their institutions and the situations arising from day to day. Looking around the country, not many governments would pass this test.

The foremost test of good governance is the respect for rule of law. As the saying goes, howsoever high a person may be, the law is above him and has to be considered supreme. The governance must be based on rule of law. Every lawfully established government must govern according to the laws of the land. All its actions must uphold the rule of law and any effort to take the law in one’s own hand or to undermine the law by anyone, howsoever high and mighty he may be, must be dealt with speedily, decisively and in an exemplary manner. It is unfortunate that even after fifty years of Independence, one cannot say with confidence that the governance in most states is based on rule of law.

In any discussion on good governance, attention must be focussed on the primary responsibilities of the government. These must include the maintenance of law and order, administration of justice, and welfare of economically and socially weaker sections of society in terms of provision of safety net for them. Here again it is seen that, in its anxiety to do thousand and one other things, these primary responsibilities have been neglected over the years. It can truly be said that he who governs the least governs the best! If this principle had been followed in governance all these years, India would not have presented a picture of such squalor, filth, illiteracy and poverty even fifty years after Independence.

The main question is whether we are prepared to learn lessons for the future from our experience of the past. The principle of subsidiarity must become the guiding principle in the governance. This would imply doing things at the level at which they can be best done. Thus as much of legislative, executive and administrative actions must be decentralised as possible. No decisions must be taken at levels higher than the level at which they ought to be appropriately taken. Decentralisation of powers and functions must be adjudged on the basis of this criterion.

As is evident, we have a long way to go to reach anywhere near such an objective, in spite of the 73rd and 74th amendments of the Constitution.

It has to be admitted that the governance in India has not changed much though over half a century has elapsed since Independence. We have certainly made some gestures and ‘noises’ such as adoption of citizen's charter, passing of laws on right to information, mouthing the platitudes of downsizing of the government and promoting the mantra of public accountability and transparency. But, the impact of these measures is hardly perceptible to the common person. There is a widespread disenchantment with the functioning of governments all over the country, irrespective of which political party is in power. It is not, therefore, surprising to see the anti-incumbency factor in operation in practically all elections in the states as also the centre.

People are clamouring for a clean, open, transparent, accountable, corruption free and sensitive administration. Thus, it is necessary to underline that good governance can also be good politics. Finally, it must be appreciated that the process of economic liberalisation and globalisation will not go far enough without adequate attention being bestowed on good governance. There has been a clamour of demand from foreign investors for transparency in decision-making in the government.

Good governance can directly contribute to higher rate of economic growth.”

In June 2003, the “New Academy of Business” submitted a report to the European Community’s Poverty Reduction Effectiveness Programme. In one paragraph, the report described the stance of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.  

Titled “Conceptual stance on good governance,” the section below reads exactly the same as the paragraph in Chauhan’s paper. The last two lines of this paragraph have also featured on the UNOHCHR website.

“Governance is the process whereby public institutions conduct public affairs, manage public resources and guarantee the realization of human rights. Good governance accomplishes this in a manner essentially free of abuse and corruption, and with due regard for the rule of law. The true test of “good” governance is the degree to which it delivers on the promise of human rights: civil, cultural, economic, political and social rights. The key question is: are the institutions of governance effectively guaranteeing the right to health, adequate housing, sufficient food, quality education, fair justice and personal security?”

This section in Chauhan’s paper is almost exactly what was published in Woods’ paper, titled “Good Governance in International Organization.” The following is a section in Woods’ paper also titled, “The Emergence of the Good Governance Agenda”:

“Scholars and practitioners of development expressed real concern at the end of the 1980s about the failure of structural adjustment and the failure of so many countries to reap the fruits of a decade of stringent reforms.3 By the early 1990s, the answer widely agreed on was that countries taking on reforms simply did not have adequate institutional depth and capacity.4 This finding coincided with a renewed interest in institutions flourishing in the social sciences—from Nobel Prize-winning economists to international relations experts.5 Furthermore, the concern with institutions and governance emerged amid increasing worldwide interest in democracy and democratization in the wake of the end of the Cold War.6 It is not surprising that scholars and practitioners started to see good governance not just as a necessary condition for effective reforms but also as fitting with a new rhetoric about democratic participation and accountability. Against this background, a whole new literature and set of prescriptions about good governance were unleashed.

In some agencies, the new idea of governance or good governance, borrowing from U.S. corporate language, came simply to mean good quality management.7 This narrow definition of governance envisages limiting the role of the state while ensuring it provides the necessary framework of policy and institutions for markets to flourish. Institutions, in this view, exist to iron out imperfections in the marketplace and to provide a limited range of what economists define as public goods. A slightly broader version of this definition emphasizes the need to strengthen the “institutional capacity of the state” through the enhancement of autonomy, efficiency, rationality, and training.8

An alternative understanding of good governance links institutions and society with a wider conception of government. Within this broader view, governance is concerned, as Oran Young defines it, with the “establishment and operation of . . . the rules of the game that serve to define social practices, assign roles, and guide interactions.”9 In order to understand this broader notion of governance, scholars are now drawing on political and sociological literature about the conditions and institutions needed to represent and mediate the vast and competing array of interests in any so ciety.10 At the same time, international institutions such as the World Bank and agencies of the UN are deriving a checklist of factors that, in their experience, are useful indicators of good governance. These factors include key principles such as participation, accountability, and fairness (on which I elaborate below).11

Surprisingly few attempts have been made during the same period to link the emerging literature about good governance and institutions in a specific way to international organizations.12 Yet the time is ripe for such a linkage. International institutions are besieged with new problems arising from both globalization and the impact of the end of the Cold War. The recent financial crisis in East Asia, the humanitarian and security cri sis around the Great Lakes of Africa, and the problems of climate change and ozone depletion are but a few of these problems.

In dealing with new issues, international organizations are being challenged in terms both of their legitimacy and their effectiveness. This challenge takes two forms. At the global level, institutions are being challenged by nonstate actors and domestic lobbies—raising broad issues of global democracy. The good governance agenda translates into questions about the very foundations of world order and the place of sovereignty within it.13 At a more modest level, the legitimacy of international institutions is being contested by states who feel inadequately consulted or represented within organizations. The old hierarchy of states within multilateral forums is being challenged and their effectiveness and legitimacy questioned by smaller or weaker states. Here, the good governance agenda can be applied to prescribe greater participation, accountability, and fair ness among states within organizations.

 Applying good governance to arrangements among states in international organizations may seem a rather old-fashioned idea. Indeed, in the 1980s and in the early 1990s, scholars began a full-fledged assault on state-centered international politics based on sovereignty. Since that time, new rationales for intervention and expanded conditionalities have been opened up,14 the increased participation of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) has been encouraged, and concepts of “global civil society” have been developed.15 There has been a tendency, in other words, to move away from the older, more state-centered views of international relations and toward a more global approach. This new approach has made an important contribution to thinking about democracy at the global level. As regards international organizations, however, the tendency to dismiss sovereignty as anachronistic and illegitimate needs a further rethinking.”

This part of Chauhan’s paper borrows from Justice as Fairness: A Restatement—a 2001 book authored by John Rawls and edited by Erin Kelly. Chauhan briefly refers to Rawls and attributes a section to him. However, Chauhan then continues to reproduce Rawls’ work, without alerting the reader that he is copying almost verbatim from the book. The Editor’s Foreword of Rawls’ book says:

“In A Theory of Justice (1971), John Rawls proposed a conception of justice that he called “justice as fairness.”1 According to justice as fairness, the most reasonable principles of justice are those that would be the object of mutual agreement by persons under fair conditions. Justice as fairness thus develops a theory of justice from the idea of a social contract. The princi­ples it articulates affirm a broadly liberal conception of basic rights and lib­erties, and only permit inequalities in wealth and income that would be to the advantage of the least well off.”

 Section 13 of the chapter “Principles of Justice” of Rawls’ book begins with:  

“To try to answer our question, let us turn to a revised statement of the two principles of justice discussed in Theory, §§11-14. They should now read:2

(a) Each person has the same indefeasible claim to a fully adequate scheme of equal basic liberties, which scheme is compatible with the same scheme of liberties for all; and

(b) Social and economic inequalities are to satisfy two conditions: first, they are to be attached to offices and positions open to all under conditions of fair equality of opportunity; and second, they are to be to the greatest benefit of the least-advantaged members of society (the difference principle).3”

The second section of “Fundamental Ideas,” a chapter of Rawls’ book, states:

“The central organizing idea of social cooperation has at least three essential features:
(a) Social cooperation is distinct from merely socially coordinated ac­tivity—for example, activity coordinated by orders issued by an ab­solute central authority. Rather, social cooperation is guided by publicly recognized rules and procedures which those cooperating accept as appropriate to regulate their conduct.

(b)  The idea of cooperation includes the idea of fair terms of coopera­tion: these are terms each participant may reasonably accept, and sometimes should accept, provided that everyone else likewise ac­cepts them. Fair terms of cooperation specify an idea of reciprocity, or mutuality: all who do their part as the recognized rules require are to benefit as specified by a public and agreed-upon standard.

(c)  The idea of cooperation also includes the idea of each participant's rational advantage, or good. The idea of rational advantage specifies what it is that those engaged in cooperation are seeking to advance from the standpoint of their own good.”

This section of Chauhan’s paper once again relies on NAB’s June 2003 report. The NAB report refers to a resolution by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights. While borrowing from the NAB paper, Chauhan’s paper used the word “resolution” without clarifying which resolution is being spoken of. The relevant section of the NAB paper that appears in Chauhan’s reads as follows:

“In its Resolution 2000/64 the Commission identified the key attributes of good governance as: transparency, responsibility, accountability, participation, and responsiveness (to the needs of the people).

This Resolution expressly linked good governance to an enabling environment conducive to the enjoyment of human rights and “prompting growth and sustainable human development.” In underscoring the importance of development cooperation for securing good governance in countries in need of external support, the resolution recognized the value of partnership approaches to development cooperation and the inappropriateness of prescriptive approaches.

 By linking good governance to sustainable human development, emphasising principles such as accountability, participation and the enjoyment of human rights, and rejecting prescriptive approaches to development assistance, the resolution stands as an implicit endorsement of the rights-based approach to development.”

These paragraphs from Chauhan’s paper appeared before in Woods’ paper, which also has a section titled, “State Centered Organizations and Good Governance.” It reads:  

“The effectiveness of international organizations has for a long time been presumed to derive from the commitment and actions of their most powerful members. In other words, institutions are effective so long as they reflect the hierarchy of power among states.16 This assumption underpinned the organization of both the League of Nations (in which the most powerful took up permanent seats in the executive—the Council) and the UN Security Council (in which the Permanent Five members enjoy what amounts to a veto on all substantive issues). Likewise, in earlier international organizations, voting power was determined purely by financial contributions, ensuring that the most economically powerful members would prevail. This was the case in the International Telegraphic Union established in 1865 and, subsequently, in the Universal Postal Union, the International Wine Office, and the International Institute of Agriculture, all of which were created by 1914.

In the second half of the twentieth century, however, questions of legitimacy began more strongly to influence the core structure of international organizations. In the first place, equality among states has developed as an important principle that borrows from ideas about equality and the "rights of man."17 By analogy, individual states should be treated as equal members of international society. And further bolstering this argument is the view that we should respect the sovereign equality of states because each is a unit within which humans can express political rights and consent to be governed. The principle of equality has been applied in many organizations that have accorded every state an equal vote, such as the GATT, its successor the WTO, and the UN General Assembly. The principle has also underpinned the allocation of an equal number of basic votes to otherwise unequal members in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank.18

However, for most of this century, equality among states has been recognized only in formal rights of representation. In reality, in the name of effectiveness, these formal rights have given way to structures that reflect the hierarchy of power among states. Yet today, for practical reasons, this top down, hierarchical vision of management is being reevaluated.19 Certainly in the short term, effectiveness requires that an institution be able to make the relevant or necessary decisions, to muster the necessary resources and capabilities, and to apply resources to implementing and enforcing decisions. And these qualities can all be met by the most powerful states running an organization. However, effectiveness in the longer term requires more.

The long-term effectiveness of an institution requires agreement among members about rules, identity, and decision-making. Scholars working on the effectiveness of institutions point out that an institution must be able to show that it can fulfill its allotted role and thereby prove to its members that it is necessary. It needs an ongoing raison d'etre that is recognized by the membership. It needs a coherent underlying system of ideas for defining problems and their solutions, a system that members perceive as valid. And it needs a capacity to absorb new systems of ideas when its own are seen to be failing.20 An effective institution must also be able to retain its identity while adapting to change, so that it can plan overall strategic directions and policy choices in conditions of stress and change yet at the same time ensure, through rigid transformation rules, that it retains its character and status.21 Furthermore, organizations need procedures to determine policies that the membership can and will implement.

More profoundly, it has been argued that for an institution to be effective, a symmetry of power must exist within the institution because it is unlikely to endure over time if powerful states or groups of states can sim ply flout the rules. As one academic argues, "the more symmetrical the distribution of power, the harder it is to establish institutional arrangements initially but the more effective they are once formed."22

These longer-term considerations of effectiveness require a more active and participatory membership than the traditional hierarchical vision, and herein lies a powerful reason for applying lessons of good governance to international institutions. The core lessons of good governance, as de fined by multilateral organizations, include three often overlapping principles: participation, accountability, and fairness. Below, I discuss each principle in turn.”

These paragraphs, with slight variations, feature in the next section of Woods’ paper titled, “Core Principles of Good Governance.” In it, Woods’s writes:

“In the sections below, problems of accountability will be examined in the context of particular structures and decision-making processes within organizations. It will be seen that accountability needs to reflect not just in formal representation but equally in decision-making procedures and rules and also in the implementation of decisions. Surprisingly, where consensus decision-making has been adopted in organizations, often on the grounds that it would ensure greater participation of all parties, in practice it has often reduced accountability. By contrast, carefully constructed voting requirements might enhance accountability.

 Finally, a third principle of good governance is fairness, which has two aspects: procedural and substantive. Procedural fairness is a legalistic notion requiring that rules and standards be created and enforced in an impartial and predictable way. In other words, procedural fairness requires the processes of representation, decision-making, and enforcement in an institution to be clearly specified, nondiscretionary, and internally consistent. All members should be able to understand and predict the processes by which an institution will take decisions and apply them. Such requirements bolster those of transparency and accountability discussed above. Yet, as will be seen below, in existing international organizations, procedural fairness is often circumvented by procedures that privilege informal meetings and decision-making.

A more stringent requirement of fairness is substantive fairness, which concerns a more contested terrain. Here, fairness refers both to how equitable the outcomes of an institution are and to general equality and the distribution of power, influence, and resources within an organization. Al though during the 1970s, debates about the structure of international organizations drew heavily on arguments about fairness and equality, in the 1990s, many aspects of substantive fairness lie beyond the ambit of good governance.29 However, some elements are in fact implicit in the principles of participation and accountability already discussed. That is to say, for reasons of effectiveness and democracy, more equality of treatment, wider participation, and greater access to decision-making are all now on the agenda of international organizations.” 

The next section of Woods’ paper, also titled, “Consensus and Problems of Accountability,” says:

“Participation and accountability within institutions are not affected only by action (and inaction) within the overall structure of voting and ownership. Equally important, the decision-making procedures operating within an institution determine how members participate and who is responsible for different kinds of decisions. Formal decision-making rules also offer a rough guide to accountability within an institution.

 In an interstate organization, the most straightforward way to ensure that all states have a voice in decisions is to enforce a rule of unanimity—since unanimity gives every state a veto. However, this approach can greatly impede the effectiveness of an organization. Even the smallest state can hold the others to ransom. Consensus decision making, by contrast, is often held out as a more workable requirement. Unanimity requires every member of an institution to vote affirmatively (or to abstain in instances where this is defined as a positive vote). But consensus decision making avoids voting and thus requires a less formal expression of agreement among the parties to a decision.

It is often assumed that consensus gives more voice to those with less voting power and that it ensures a peaceable and constructive atmosphere within institutions. For these reasons, it is often simply asserted that consensus decision making contributes unproblematically to good governance.”

The subsequent section in Woods’ paper is also titled, “Voting Structures. Stake-holders and Good Governance.” In it, she writes:

“Yet good governance requires the inclusion of particular groups or states. Expressed another way, there are a range of stakes in the institution that need to be balanced in its governance. The stakeholders of international organizations include member governments who contribute resources, members whose compliance is required for the institution to be effective, and members who rep resent groups affected by the institution's policies. The key question for any institution is how to reflect and balance the various stakes in the institution and how to adapt when those stakes change. In recent times, international organizations have used or reformed their voting structures and voting requirements to achieve an appropriate balance.”