The famous case of literary piracy (plagiarism) against Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan for stealing from a student’s thesis
In January 1929, one Jadunath Sinha, then a little known young Lecturer of Philosophy in the Meerut College, having a brilliant academic track record, created a sensation in the literary world by accusing Dr. Radhakrishnan of plagiarizing extensively from the first two parts of his thesis titled ‘Indian Psychology of Perception, Vol I & Vol II, which were submitted by him to the Calcutta University (CU) for the coveted Premchand Roychand Studentship (PRS) of 1922. While Jadunath Sinha had submitted the Vol. I of his thesis in 1922, he submitted Vol. II of the thesis in 1923. The piracy has been made from these two parts of his thesis.
Prof Jadunath Sinha
Jadunath Sinha had passed B.A. (Honours in Philosophy) in 1915 from the Calcutta University, simultaneously bagging the Philip Samuel Smith Prize and the Clint Memorial Prize. Subsequently he passed the M.A. (Philosophy) from the Calcutta University in 1917 and then had applied for the prestigious Premchand Roychand Studentship for 1922. [The remaining installments of the thesis were submitted by Jadunath Sinha until its completion in 1925 when he was awarded the Griffith Prize (CU) in 1923 and the Mouat Medal of the CU in 1925.] The Calcutta University had appointed Sir Brajendranath Seal and Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan [who had replaced Sir Brajendranath Seal, the first George V Professor of Mental and Moral Philosophy of the CU in March 1921 after Prof. Seal had joined the Mysore University as the Vice Chancellor] as examiners of that part of the thesis. Vol. II and other subsequent installments of the thesis were read by Dr. S. Radhakrishnan and Prof. Krishna Chandra Bhattacharjee of CU who were appointed Readers for the assignments. According to Prof. Jadunath Sinha, though Radhakrishnan’s book ‘Indian Philosophy Vol. II’, which incorporated the extensively stolen paragraphs of Jadunath Sinha’s thesis (Vol.I and II), was published in 1927, he had noticed the copyright infringement (plagiarism) only in November 1928. Prof. Jadunath Sinha lodged a serious complaint in the Modern Review (M.R.) magazine through a letter dated December 20, 1928, which was published in the M.R. issue of January 1929.
Dr. Radhakrishnan had published another book titled “The Vedanta according to Sankara and Ramanuja” in 1928, which was actually a reprint of Chapters 8 & 9 of his book “Indian Philosophy Vol. II.” That book also had extensive pirated paragraphs from Prof. Jadunath Sinha’s Premchand Roychand Studentship thesis. Luckily for Prof. Jadunath Sinha, he had published extracts from those two parts of his Premchand Roychand Studentship thesis in the Meerut College Magazines of 1924 and 1926.
Part 1 of a newspaper report on the issue
Prof. Jadunath Sinha had followed up his first letter to the Modern Review by writing three more letters/rejoinders which were published in the M.R. magazine’s February, March and April 1929 issues. Prof. Sinha cited many, many more parallel passages to prove his point. Dr. Radhakrishnan replied by writing two letters which were published in the February and March 1929 issues of the Modern Review. Dr. Radhakrishnan’s arguments were almost absurd and he even tried to defame Prof. Jadunath Sinha. Shri Ramananda Chattopadhyay, the Editor of Modern Review and also the Editor of the sister-magazine (published in Bengali) known as Prabashi, also wrote a long editorial comment, as Dr. Radhakrishnan had accused the editor of harassing him, which was published in the February 1929 issue of M.R.
Part 2 of the newspaper report on the issue
Then in the first half of the month of August 1929, Prof. Jadunath Sinha sued Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan in the Calcutta High Court for infringement of copyrights of his original literary works, claiming Rs.20,000/- as damages. Sometime in the first week of September 1929, Radhakrishnan filed a counter libel suit against Prof. Jadunath Sinha and Shri Ramananda Chattopadhyay demanding Rs.1,00,000/-. Probably Radhakrishnan thought that attack was the best defence!
Part 3 of the newspaper report on the issue
Prof. Dr. Jadunath Sinha was so admired by his teachers that he was appointed an Assistant Professor of Ripon College, Calcutta, before his M.A. results were announced. He did his PhD from the CU in 1934. He went on to become a versatile writer of Philosophy, Psychology, etc. which were published by famous publishers. Two of his books were published by M/s. Kegan Paul of London. Dr. Sinha being the most original philosopher of Hinduism and Indian philosophy, psychology, etc. is still revered by the students of philosophy. Dr. Jadunath Sinha went into religion in the latter part of his life.
Dr S Radhakrishnan
There was lot of pressure on Prof. Jadunath Sinha to settle the case out of court. All the so-called Bengali senior Professors who sympathized with Prof. Jadunath Sinha and were convinced of the plagiarism, refused to stand witness for him in the Court. Prof. Jadunath Sinha was also short of money. Dr. S. Radhakrishnan had lot of clout and was clever enough to manipulate, manage and obtain the help of his friends, especially that of Dr. Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, son of Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee. It was Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, the then VC of Calcutta University, who had brought Prof. Radhakrishnan from Bangalore to Calcutta University for the prestigious post of King George V Professorship with a hefty salary of Rs.1000/- per month. So, his son Dr. Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, who was also a close friend of Dr. Radhakrishnan and was then the Vice Chancellor of the Calcutta University, wanted to hush up the matter.
At last Prof. Jadunath Sinha succumbed to all these pressures and had to agree for settlement outside court. And the two suits were settled before the Acting Chief Justice through a Decree, probably in the first week of May 1933. Terms of settlement were not disclosed.
The above is only a thumbnail sketch of Dr. Jadunath Sinha and what happened to him. Much more information is available which have been avoided in this write-up keeping in mind of the paucity of time of Facebook friends. More details would be produced soon for knowledge of those who are interested to know the case in full details and form their own opinion about the plagiarism.
Gist of news items on the plagiarism case
1. This write-up has been based on articles published in different Websites, books, etc. My role has been that of a compiler.
2. I must like to highlight one particular compendium written by one Mr. Barin De and published in January 1982; this book is actually a treasure trove. The title of the book is “A Reported Case of Radhakrishnan’s Literary Piracy” and it has a beautiful history. The Illustrated Weekly Magazine Editorial of April 27, 1975, that I had posted with my facebook article of August 27, 1916, was from this book only. The Press Reports regarding the Plagiarism Case attached to this write-up are from this book. God willing, I hope to reproduce many letters and documents from this book in the coming days.
Note: This write-up and a few others in this series were posted in my Facebook Page at https://www.facebook.com/utpal.aich.7
Utpal Aich retired as First Secretary from Embassy of India, Addis Ababa (the Ministry of External Affairs). He is now an independent researcher.