My first post on the Anna University case has generated several comments, some of which verge on conspiracy theories -- but this case is so bizarre that even conspiracy theories don't seem too incredible.
The theory was, what if none of the four purported authors of the JMS paper are actually involved, and someone impersonated the corresponding author with a fake yahoo.com address?
This theory is contradicted, however, by two points: first, as Niket points out, Selladurai seems to have used that address before, so it appears to be his address. Second, there is this extraordinary email that Muthukkumaran allegedly sent one of the Swedish authors.
Let's take the Muthukkumaran email. What do we make of it? This guy says someone in Nepal sent him a manuscript, refused to be an author himself, and asked Muthukkumaran to publish it under his own name. Even if he was unaware it was plagiarised, Muthukkumaran was certainly aware that he had no contribution to it. (He was also apparently unaware that PNAS is available for free, online, to everyone in India.)
But (assuming the email is legitimate) I wouldn't be harsh on Muthukkumaran. I have met many, many students by now who seem to have absolutely no idea of propriety and ethics in writing articles. I think this is a deep-rooted failing of our educational system. We simply do not teach students to cite others' work properly, or to be conscientious in putting their names only to material that they wrote. In fact, schools actively encourage "holiday homework" that consists of cutting and pasting from various sources, without citation. Our newspapers are a cesspool of plagiarism. As a society, we seem to have forgotten the most basic things that we need to teach young children, perhaps because we don't take them seriously ourselves. (Many of you will point out, correctly, that students constantly see professors putting their names to work that their students or RAs did; nobody raises their eyebrows, until they get into trouble internationally, as in the Mashelkar case. So why should we wonder that even university students don't learn any kind of message about ethics?)
Very well then, but why did he put three other people as co-authors? Maybe he genuinely thought it would please them -- such is the culture of sycophancy in our country. Maybe, if nothing amiss had occurred, most co-authors so "honoured" would have been genuinely pleased. Maybe it happens all the time.
Which brings us to the corresponding author, Selladurai. Was he an innocent victim? (Even if the e-mail address is his, I have known many email-illiterate professors who asked their students to handle e-mail for them.) If so, one should sympathise with him, but he should learn to teach his students ethics before anything else, and also learn that his email should be his own property and not anyone else's. Was he aware of what's going on and did he willingly allow his name to appear? In that case, he has much to answer for.
All of the above is speculation based on that alleged Muthukkumaran email. Perhaps the true story is even more extraordinary.