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Indian student sues university for $3 million over fail grade in PhD

Kuldeep Mann reclama daños a la Universidad James Cook por valor de más de 3 millones de dólares. Source: Supplied

An Indian student is claiming over $3million in damages and compensation from a university for failing him in his PhD exam, alleging a “conspiracy” to ruin his career. His claim is yet to be heard by the Supreme Court of Queensland.

52-year-old Kuldeep Mann says he was falsely accused of plagiarism and that he was more interested in work than studies at the James Cook University after he was awarded a fail grade in two subjects of his PhD in Social Sciences. 

In his application submitted in the Supreme Court of Queensland, Mr Mann claims that the university provided "inadequate" supervision for his research.

He also claims that the university offered him a compensation deal to make him go away.

“I was offered $52,576 in compensation after the appeals panel of the university ruled that the matter should be resolved in my best interest,” Mr Mann told SBS Punjabi.

But he claims he refused to accept the offer as it was “too little” compared to what he had to endure.

A former journalist in India, Mr Mann began his PhD at the Townsville campus of the university in 2015 and later moved to Melbourne after the dispute arose. Currently working at a 7/11 store, he claims the treatment by the university has caused him “irreparable damage”.

“The JCU had enrolled me into the PhD program just to mint thousands of dollars,” he said.

“I had got my career ruined and reputation lost forever.

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James Cook University
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“It had pushed me to the throes of depression and I am still fighting to come out of mental agony,” Mr Mann said.

Mr Mann says in his petition that the university's treatment has killed him intellectually.  "I have lost all the zeal to do anything as a social scientist in the future."

"I have lost my reputation in the community and among all those who know me personally as they do often ask me about the status of my PhD, and I have got no answer to offer."

The James Cook University declined to comment on the matter as it’s currently before the court.

The university's lawyer, in a letter to Mr Mann, advised him that his claim was not in accordance with the court procedures.

“Your claim does not comply with rule 171 in that: it contains unnecessary or scandalous allegations; it is frivolous or vexatious; it is otherwise an abuse of the process of the court,” Matthew Deighton, a partner with Colin, Biggers & Paisley Lawyers said.

He said the university will apply for a court order to have the claim struck off and that Mr Mann is made to pay the legal cost.

Mr Mann has been given until 31 May to amend his statement of claims. But he has not been able to secure legal help so far and has applied to the court for free legal aid.

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