Dhaka University's decision to demote Samia Rahman, a journalism teacher, on charges of stealing content in a research paper has been declared illegal by the High Court.
The panel of Justice Zafar Ahmed and Justice Md Akhtaruzzaman issued the order on Thursday, settling its rule on a writ petition filed by Samia.
The court has also directed the university authorities to provide all job-related benefits and financial allowances to Samia in line with her previously-held position.
Lawyer Hasan MS Azim appeared on behalf of Samia at the hearing while Naeem Ahmed represented Dhaka University.
On Sept 5, 2021, the High Court issued a rule asking why the order demoting Samia from the position of associate professor to assistant professor for two years should not be deemed illegal and beyond the university's authority.
At the same, the university was asked to explain why Samia should not receive all the benefits that she was due from Jan 28, 2021, the date on which the decision to demote her was made by the university syndicate.
Speaking to reporters after the hearing, Samia's lawyer Azim said she has been vindicated by the court's ruling. "The university syndicate issued an order demoting Samia Rahman. She filed a writ petition challenging this order. The court has now quashed the order and ordered the university to give her all the employment and pecuniary benefits to which she is entitled."
“We believe that Samia Rahman has regained her lost honour. This judgment proves that the accusation of plagiarism against her was unfair and proves that she did not commit plagiarism.”
On Jan 28, 2021, the university syndicate, in a meeting chaired by Vice-Chancellor Md Akhtaruzzaman, decided to penalise Samia and her co-researcher Syed Mahfujul Haque Marjan, a lecturer of criminal science, for plagiarism.
In December 2016, Samia and Marjan co-authored an eight-page research paper titled 'A New Dimension of Colonialism and Pop Culture: A Case Study of the Cultural Imperialism,' published in the University's Social Science Review journal.
However, it later emerged that they had plagiarised nearly five pages of an article titled "The Subject and Power" by French philosopher Michel Foucault, published in the University of Chicago's Critical Inquiry journal in 1982.
Almost a year later in September 2017, the University of Chicago Press sent a written complaint to the Dhaka University authorities over the matter.
Samia and Marjan were also accused of copying multiple pages of intellectual Edward Said's book 'Culture and Imperialism'.
In light of the complaints, the university's syndicate formed an investigation committee to dig into the allegations.
The committee submitted its report in 2019 after a year-long investigation. Although the committee found proof of plagiarism, the report did not recommend action against the two.
Later, the syndicate appointed AFM Mezbahuddin, a lawyer of the Supreme Court, to draw up legal recommendations on the matter, and subsequently formed a tribunal.