The Union Ministry of Human Resource Development denied the Jamia Millia Islamia university’s request to award an honorary doctorate to actor Shah Rukh Khan last year, The Indian Express reported on Friday. Khan is a former student of the university.

The ministry refused the request saying it “would not be in order” as Khan had received a similar degree from the Maulana Azad National Urdu University in Hyderabad in 2016, the university’s response to a Right to Information query showed.

According to the newspaper, the university wrote to Khan on January 30, 2018, to inform him that it wanted to give him the degree as he was its “most prestigious alumnus”. The university told him it was waiting for the ministry’s approval. On February 17, 2018, one of Khan’s assistants responded, saying “it will be an honour to accept this”.

Four days later, Jamia’s registrar wrote to the ministry to seek the approval, citing the actor’s work in cinema and “as brand ambassador of the Indian culture”. On February 26, an HRD Ministry under-secretary asked the institution if the university’s competent authority had approved the idea. The competent authority – the Executive Council – approved the proposal on March 14, and the ministry was then informed.

But on April 11, the ministry sent a letter to Jamia denying the request, citing the degree Khan had already got from Maulana Azad National Urdu University, The Indian Express reported.

Higher Education Secretary R Subrahmanyam told the newspaper: “Whenever there is a recommendation of the Executive Committee seeking approval for awarding an honorary doctorate, we check whether the same person has been awarded the same honour by another central university; and whether there is any conflict of interest. Since 2014, there has not been any instance where the same person has been awarded honorary doctorate in more than one central university. As a matter of policy, we discourage such things.”

But, The Indian Express reported that several people have received multiple honorary degrees since 2014, including scientist CNR Rao, who was awarded degrees by the University of Kashmir in 2015 and IIT Kanpur in 2016, and MS Swaminathan, who was conferred with degrees by the Punjab University in 2015 and IIT Kanpur in 2017.