Zee SubhashAs hundreds of students languish over their future as alleged in a PIL filed in the Supreme Court by Prashant Bhushan, due to fake degrees issued by Himgiri Zee University, the foray of Zee Group into higher education has been more nightmarish than being the golden goose.

Acting upon the plea from students over the irregularities and issuance of fake degrees, Supreme Court has issued notice to Uttarakhand based Zee Himgiri University, its patron Subhash Chandra and asked them to clear their stand.

The court observed through a writ petition filed by students that Zee Himgiri University has been involved in giving out fake and forged degrees that are unrecognized under the UGC rules and regulations.

“A Bench of (Supreme Court) Justices Dipak Misra and PC Pant on Wednesday issued notice to State of Uttarakhand, University Grants Commission and Union of India along with Zee Himgiri University and its patron Subhash Chandra under whose aegis the university and the distance learning centres have been running and has sought a reply within 8 weeks to the irregularities” the notice read.

Former Aam Aadmi Party leader and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan representing the students argued in the court that the university has robbed a number of middle class or lower income group innocent students of their parents’ money and cost them their careers.

ALSO READ: Fake Degree Case: Subhash Chandra’s Zee Himgiri University In Dock, SC Issues Notice

The plea adds that university has been issuing degrees related to animation, filmmaking and visual effects in violation of the University Grants Commission rules and regulations.

The plea further states that the University has been constantly ignoring rules and has set up 29 study centres in 15 states without taking due permission from Govt and concerned authorities.

The petition also alleged Zee Group to have indulged in tax evasion under the guise of corporate social responsibility (CSR).
In the past decade, since the university started its operations in October 2005, the Zee Group through its sister concerns, namely, Zee Learn Ltd., Zee Institute of Creative Arts (ZICA) and Zee Institute of Media Arts (ZIMA), also allegedly violated both the provisions of the state Act under which it was set up and the guidelines of the UGC.
As per the state Act of 2003, the Himgiri Zee University had to set up 13 study centres across as many districts in Uttarakhand within three years of the Act coming into force.
While the HZU failed to open any study centre in its home state, it entered into an agreement with Zee Learn Ltd. on 1 June, 2010, signed by Pro Vice-Chancellor to offer BSc degree in animation and VFX and other online distance learning courses through ZICA. They went ahead with this although the UGC had in a letter to the university on 16 May, 2008 asked it to close down all its operations outside the state of Uttarakhand with immediate effect.

The lid from this scam would  never have been blown off but for the students who received certificates instead of the degree that was promised by the Zee Group.

The students launched protests with many even sending legal notices to the company. Then, Prof. Abhishekh Asthana, former vice-chancellor of the HZU, not only refused to play ball but also stood his ground against all these irregularities.

ALSO READ: Himgiri University Fake Degree Case: SC Issues Notice, HRD Ministry Says Strong Action Will Be Taken

Prof. Asthana was removed from the post of vice-chancellor and cases were slapped against him by the Zee Group. The petition states that this was done by the university management to harass and malign him and stop him.

In an apparent bid to stop him from going public on the affairs of the university, the Zee Group managed to get a restraining order against Prof. Asthana from the Bombay High Court on 8 March, 2008. Last year in October, Prof. Asthana brought all these illegal activities of the university in question and Zee Learn Ltd. to the notice of Central Vigilance Commissioner and the governor of Uttarakhand who is also the visitor to the HZU.

Experts are amazed over the audacity with which the Zee Group took the scam to countries beyond India’s borders. In 2013, Zee Learn Ltd. enlisted itself on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange and raised Rs 110 crore by selling GDRs to foreign investors by falsely claiming in the red-herring prospectus: “For some of the current course being offered under the ZICA and ZIMA brands, we have been affiliated with Himgiri Zee University.”

According to the regulatory provisions of the European Securities and Exchange Authority (CSSF), providing false and misleading information creates civil, administrative and criminal liability on the information provider.

Higher education is not the only avenue where Zee Group has been misappropriating funds and duping both government and general public at large.

According to reports, Zee Group secured a loan of Rs. 70 crore in 2008 from the Punjab National Bank for Himgiri Zee University by wrongly showing the 50 acres of land leased to the Taleem Research Foundation by the Uttarakhand government as leasehold property and diverted the funds to the group.

Taking cognizance of this matter, the Dehradun district magistrate had on 4 August, 2010 recommended cancellation of the lease deed to the Principal secretary (revenue), and the state government has already stopped collecting lease rent from the university against the land (50 acres) on which the university has built its premises.
It must also be noted here that while Zee Group is embattled in their higher education scam, they have also been vocal on running campaign against JNUSU President Kanhaiya Kumar by doctoring videos of him suggesting that he made anti-India and pro-Afzal Guru comments.
Following this uproar, Jawaharlal Nehru University Professor Nivedita Menon on Wednesday hit back to Zee News editor Sudhir Chaudhary for calling her speech in campus venomous and blaming her for infusing hatred among youngsters.While standing by her addressing in campus, Menon who teaches at the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory at the International Studies school in JNU said “Look who’s calling us anti-national! the person who was jailed for demanding Rs 1000 cr from Jindal Steel and Powers Limited for not airing negative news, and is an alleged criminal extortionist,”.

Menon on Wednesday morning hit back to Zee News editor by writing a blog in Delhi based kafila.org and while talking to News World India said “I stand by what I have written in kafila”.

Menon while divulging the details of ‘criminal’ past of Sudhir Chaudhary wrote that ‘though she don’t want to engage with the ‘criminal extortionist’ but would like to clear the video which Zee news aired”.

ALSO READ: JNU Professor Hits Back At Zee News Editor Sudhir Chaudhary, Says ‘Dont Want To Engage With Criminal Extortionist’