It is often said that there is no age bar when it comes to learning, and a 91-year-old Chartered Accountant (CA) from Thiruvarur district in Tamil Nadu proved that after he received his PhD in a ceremony on October 1.
S M Miskeen, 91, became the oldest recipient of a PhD in Tamil Nadu after he received his doctorate for conducting his thesis on cheque fraud in April 2019. He was conferred with the doctorate degree by Tamil Nadu Governor Banwarilal Purohit at a ceremony held at Bharatidasan University in Trichy last week.
Speaking to indianexpress.com after receiving his doctorate, an ecstatic Miskeen said, “Age is not a bar for education. At any age, you can do anything provided you love what you are doing and have an interest in what you do. I feel satisfied with what I did for the service of the community at this age despite my tiredness and disability.”
Miskeen completed his PhD, titled ‘An analytical study of judicial verdicts in cheque dishonour cases and their impact on the offenders’, under the guidance of Dr. Isaac Francis Gnanasekar, the former Vice Principal and retired Commerce professor from St. Joseph’s College in Trichy. The nonagenarian had registered for his PhD in 2014 and submitted his synopsis in December 2018. Having been given a deadline of six years for his thesis, Miskeen completed his research in five years in April this year.
A native of Thiruvarur district, Miskeen was born in the village of Koothanallur in 1928. He completed his primary education up to grade 5 in the hamlet and later moved to Madras (present-day Chennai) for high school with his father. “World War II broke out while I was in my eighth grade. The government evacuated people from Madras, particularly those from schools and colleges during the fighting. I returned to my village and studied there until ninth grade,” said the 91-year-old PhD holder.
Miskeen later returned to the city to complete his schooling and later graduated from Loyola College in Chennai with a degree in Bachelors of Commerce (B.Com) in 1950. The young graduate then spent two-and-a-half years at Saigon in Vietnam where he worked the family business. During the civil war in Saigoon in 1953, Miskeen returned to India and pursued Chartered Accountancy (CA). He completed his CA in 1956 and then went on to establish his own practice back in his home district of Thiruvarur. “Despite having done my education in Chennai, I decided to set up my practice in Thiruvarur since it was the community there that had raised me and I wanted to be useful here,” Miskeen recalled.
From 1960 till date, Miskeen has been residing in Thiruvarur where he still continues to practice as a CA. Even today, Miskeen audits the accounts of his clients who have been with him for over 50 years as a service and for zero fees.
Besides being a CA, Miskeen was elected as the district’s governor from Karur to Tiruttani in 1985.
After joining Lions Club International in 1968, Miskeen was instrumental in setting up the first eye hospital in Thiruvarur in 1991, which was set up using funds provided by the club and the public. Till date, the hospital continues to provide treatment to people in rural areas free of charge. He later founded R A College, an institute for women with only 83 students, most of whom were the first generation of agricultural families at a rented building in Thiruvarur in 1999. Today, the college has 2000 students.
It was while working in the education line over the years that Miskeen came across cheque bouncing, which is considered an offence under the Indian Penal Code since 1982. Miskeen said that most people who work in the commercial world are not aware about the ramifications of a bounced cheque and decided to do his thesis on the topic.
Miskeen analysed close to 400 cases from Supreme Court and High Court judgements, all of which have been covered in his thesis. The research also explains topics such as cheque dishonouring, when is a cheque is dishonoured and when is an offence committed.
Speaking about his thesis, Miskeen has a suggestion for the government. The first is that the Negotiable Instruments Act of 1881 should be amended to avoid sending people to jail for failing to repay their debt or loan amount or when even one cheque out of a series of cheques bounces during encashment. “More than 50% of the population in India live below the poverty line. Sometimes, they may be unable to repay their debt due to some unforeseen circumstances. In such cases, the Act should be amended,” said Miskeen.
The second suggestion is for the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) to create a registry of accounts whose cheques are bounced on a regular basis and provide a mechanism to freeze such accounts for defaulting on payments.
Miskeen said that he hoped his journey will inspire more youngsters to pursue what they love no matter their age. After all, learning is a continuous process and does not halt until the day you leave this Earth.