This piece throws light on the struggle of the law students against their University Administrations, particularly that in of RGNUL whose protests mark the latest victory on the face of sheer adversity. The administration of the National Law Universities are in fact the most known for their legal ethos and legal teachings. These universities however, have imbibed in their administration a seed of injustice which continues to grow and non-acknowledgement of the needs of its students. “Islands of excellence or despair?”, reported The Statesman.
What can really students do when the Universities fall like Lucifer fell? When the very University who taught them of Right to Freedom of Speech and Privacy decides to trample upon it? Rebel!
Pages from the Past:
In 2018, Hidayatullah National Law University 2 dozen HNLU students started a hunger strike and the VC threated shutting down the college.
The HNLU protests first ignited in 2005 upon a complaint filed by the students to the VC for lack of campus and other infrastructure related issues. After the protests being diffused it resurfaced back in 2009. In the month of March, 2009 the students went on to hunger strikes.
Consequently they shifted to permanent Campus at Naya Raipur, Law Ministry, The Government of Chhattisgarh recruits law graduates from HNLU every year and the University now receives Consistent annual Grants from the government. The HNLU VC resigned amidst protests.
In 2013, the students of National Law University, Jodhpur protested against the Termination of Leading Academic from NLU Jodhpur MHRD IP Chair Position.
In 2014, the students of Damodaram Sanjivyya National Law University, Vizag had protest against the upsetting public statement given by the Chief Minister of Andhra for setting up a NALSAR type university in the state.
This triggered the level of disappointment and tension among the students of DSNLU. The students of DSNLU went on strike for over a week, with the fear that the State resources would be disbursed to a new institute which is questioning their identity all together!
Consequently, The Chief Minister visited them in person, and constituted a Special Committee who looked into it immediate disbursement of funds and speedy construction of DSNLU campus.
In 2014, the students National Law University and Judicial Academy, Assam had gone on protest against the administration’s abject failure to provide them with basic requirements and highlighted the absence of permanent faculty, insufficient books in the library, and lack of medical facilities, among other problems. After failed attempts to reach out to the Chancellor of the University failed, the students went on a hunger strike.
Consequently, the VC was changed, funds were disbursed and rapid construction of their campus began.
In 2015, the students of Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow over discrimination of hostel curfew timings between boys and girls in stark violation of Article 14, 21, 19 (1)(d), 21A; 38. Moreover, the right to freedom of speech and expression (Art 19(1)(a)) is also being curtailed.
In 2018, the V.C. of West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences, Dr P Ishwar Bhat, had succumbed to the determined student protests and resigned who alleged maladministration during his tenure.
In 2018, the students of Chanakya National Law University, Patna protested against the decision to appoint of Dr P Ishwar Bhat post his term at WBNUJS (you got it right, Dr. Bhat was then serving as the VC of WBNUJS and the students of WBNUJS had already manifested their discontentment towards Bhat Administration). After a 4-day students led protest the Patna High Court Retired Justice Ms. Mridula Mishra was appointed as acting their Vice-Chancellor
In March, 2019 a wide scale protest broke out in the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law against the sexism and maladministration that persists in their institution.
When it comes to protests, we often think and argue over a lot of things as to its relevancy and certainty. But the crucial point to make is instead of debating and being reluctant upon it we should think of at least trying. (Voice of NUSRL).
Situation in RGNUL
Genesis: The protests had erupted when a multitude (approx. 100) of Hostel students rebelled against the inferior quality of food in the mess (and Khalbali, RGNULs Nukkad Natak Team made a moving rendition on the same) and the University cracked down on six hostel students a day before their exams and the students were stranded outside the college at night. The protest soon rocketed into a full blown agitation against the maladministration of the authorities and sexism faced by the students.
Demands: The four demands put forward by the students for the same constituted of a
- revocation of the suspension order;
- a formal, transparent and unconditional enquiry into the conduct of the Administrative officer whom they have accused of rampant and excessive sexism;
- formalisation of the student body and
- to repeal and review the discriminatory practices and rules inculcated by the institution itself.
Crushing Freedom of Speech: Other than the huge amount of Rapid Action Force (RAF) on the campus, the University has restricted media access and no press has been allowed on campus since yesterday. In an age where media plays an essential role in communicating stories with the masses, this is again a tactic by the authorities to put a blanket over the events. A way to hide the honest truth behind the reality of the administrative authorities that place themselves on high pedestals in front of their students, however do not play any crucial role with providing them a sense of equality and justice in the institution itself.
Violating Right to Privacy: The students have issued a statement saying that due to the actions of the campus authorities’ students “were subject to degrading treatment constituting a deprivation of their Right to Privacy”. The mobile phones of the six hostel students were taken to understand who all were involve in these protests. The students are now demanding to meet the chancellor as a possible way of negotiating the situation. All they ask for are their rights. The vice chancellor and other judges of the High Court they have met are supposedly to represent Hon’ble Justice Murai. Sources suggest that complaints have already been filed with the State Human Rights Commission and the National Commission for Women to investigate the alleged violation of Human Rights.
Crisis Management: The latest developments show that the authorities have finally yielded to the demands of the students with Attorney General Atul Nanda stepping into to mediate and control the matter. A notice published by the University has unconditionally revoked the suspension of the six hostel students. Further, the campus administrator has been removed from his post and a judicial inquiry will be conducted against him within the next three months. The hostel in timings, which was a blatant show of sexism has now been changed to 8 PM for both boys and girls, and the library timings to 12 PM.
The protests and further the reaction to these by the authorities just show the insensitive administration students face on a daily basis. The fact that peaceful protests lead by students within their campus require such large amounts of police force to ‘control’ it shows the need of authority to silence the students and not have their way. The protests in RGNLU are a perfect example of student unity and determination to fight for what it is right while highlighting the dire state of administrative operating certain institutions.
An island of legal excellence, as RGNUL claims itself to be, has violated the fundamental rights of their own students. Their protest has been characterised as one of ‘violence’ and ‘ruthlessness’. Why has this unaccountable system been prevailing in the National Law University? A simple answer to this being that there is a lack of student representation on campus which can take up the issues directly to the administration. Many failed attempts of constituting a student body and authorities taking resentful action against the students who led these attempts has occurred.
The truth of it all is that the youth of today is no longer keeping quiet and is in no way tolerating injustice, maladministration and corruption in their Universities. It is time for institution to grasp the fact that in no way can an institution promoting legal ethics to its students violate the fundamental rights of its own students. Even though A.G. Atul Nanda has stepped into control the matter, it will take years of hard work for the institution to gain the trust of its students once again. The imbibed discrimination towards its students will not be forgotten that easily.
Into the Future
With the support of the N.L.U. Consortium, legal luminaries, premier universities like T.I.S.S., edu-preneur websites and students at large the battle at RGNUL has been won but the larger War against Institutional Maladministration and blatant violation of the Fundamental and Legal Rights of Students in stark violation of the provisions on the Constitution of India which they so religiously teach is still ongoing, one institution at a time. If we as Students of Law cannot raise our voices against violation of our own rights then this cowardice will not die with the 5 years of law that we study. It will stay and creep up every time we endeavour to stand against the status-quo. As lawyers in making we can be taking it up with, say, the Government for passing illegal legislations, or maybe huge corporates but do you think that the students who are afraid of protesting against their University will not succumb to the extraneous pressures while dealing such high profile and socially pertinent matters. It’s time that Law Universities stop killing the lawyer within law students by curbing their freedom of speech with rifles (inviting police, RAF, in college campuses) and their basic human rights by blatantly abusing the very power given to them to nurture these values.
“There is no more neutrality in the world, you either have to be part of the solution or you are going to be a part of the problem”
Co-Authored by :