A 24-year-old murder convict, who has emerged as national topper in a one-year diploma course offered by the Indira Gandhi National Open University (Ignou), was honoured with a gold medal at its 28th convocation held at the Banaras Hindu University on Saturday.

Ajit Kumar Saroj, who is serving a 10-year sentence in Varanasi Central Jail, had killed his neighbour over a land dispute.

"Ajit tried to save us during a fight. Since then, we have decided that we will not fight with anybody on any issue. My son is in jail since 2012 and we are waiting for his release every day. But only three years have passed," India Today quoted Ajit's father Ram Bachan Saroj as saying.

There have been several instances of convicts in Uttar Pradesh applying for courses and passing with good marks, but Ajit, who topped in Tourism Studies, was reportedly the first one to bag a gold medal.

"Ignou is perhaps the only university in the world with extensive programmes for education and training of jail inmates," PTI quoted Ignou Vice-Chancellor as saying. "The university has also facilitated placement drives for jail inmates with encouraging results. Inmates have gained confidence and sustainable means of livelihood."

In another incident, Ignou, on Saturday, reportedly conferred 1993 Mumbai blast accused Yakub Memon his Political Science master degree "in absentia". Memon, who was hanged on 30 July, had also completed his masters in English Literature in 2013.

Ignou has awarded degrees, diplomas and certificates to over 1,92,000 students at its 28th convocation held on 8 August.