The fraud of the century

Published: Tuesday 15 February 1994

-- The "greatest scientific fraud of the century", attributed to an Indian geologist, was in the spotlight once again recently in an article published in the scientific journal, Nature. The findings of Vishwa Jit Gupta of the department of geology at Punjab University in Chandigarh, which contributed to the scientific database on the Himalaya, had been proved fraudulent by Australian geologist John A Talent in 1989. It was discovered that Gupta had presented findings stolen from laboratories in different parts of the world and had ascribed fossils to non-existent rock structures. He is said to have warped concepts in marine geology that have been used in textbooks and may take decades to correct.

The "fossil fraud" controversy led to a spate of inquiries, the latest one being conducted by M S Gujral, a retired high court judge. Gupta says he will bring more evidence to defend his position. The Nature article said, "Whatever the outcome, it will be irrelevant outside Chandigarh."

The University Grants Commission withdrew funds to the department after the controversy broke. The department claims Gupta cannot be removed till Gujral's judgement is delivered and as it waits for the inquiry to end, Gupta stands next-but-one in line to be the dean.

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