The students of Rajiv Gandhi National Law University (RGNUL), Patiala, have been protesting since March 15 in the university premises against the suspension of six second year students. The students were suspended indefinitely for raising their voice against the unhygienic food served in the hostels. The students have called this suspension “arbitrary and wrongful”.
According to the order issued by the Administrative Officer (A.O.) of RGNUL, Capt. S P Singh, on March 15, the students were suspended for participating in an “incident of indiscipline and hooliganism in the boys’ mess in the boys’ hostel”. It further read, “[The students] have been found to have indulged in the act of violence and ruthlessness, damaging the university property and creating nuisance for other students who wanted to take their meal in peace.”
Talking to Newsclick, a fourth-year student of RGNUL said, “The students did not damage any property or indulge in any violence. They banged their plates against the tables to protest against the unhygienic food that is served in hostels, for which they pay a huge amount of money. We have been complaining about the quality of the food for very long, but the hostel administration did not pay any attention to our complaints. So, on March 13, when the students from second-year started protesting, other students in the mess also joined them. The six students who were suspended did not instigate anything.” The student chose to remain anonymous, fearing that he might be targeted by the administration if his name was revealed.
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Students have claimed that the order for suspension is invalid, as it was issued without a proper hearing, and in the absence of Vice-Chancellor Dr Paramjit Jaswal. The protesting students claimed in a statement that the suspended students "were subject to degrading treatment constituting a deprivation of their Right to Privacy" as their mobile phones were forcibly confiscated and their private conversations read. The fourth-year student also said that the e-mails which the students send from their official e-mail IDs issued by the university administration were also monitored.
The suspension order said that the suspended students were permitted to take their mid-term examinations that are commencing on March 18, but they will be “permitted to enter the campus 30 minutes before the commencement of the exam and shall leave the campus within 15 minutes of the completion of the examination time”
The students of RGNUL, on March 16, sent a representation to the Chancellor of the university, demanding immediate revocation of the suspension order. Apart from that, it also highlighted several other demands, like a formal inquiry into the conduct of the A.O. of the university, formalisation of the student body, and thorough review/repeal of discriminatory practices enfranchised by the university apparatus.
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The students have accused the A.O. of repeatedly offending the value system that the university subscribes to. They have said that there are multiple instances of him making sexually coloured remarks that violate the dignity of women in the institution, both orally and through electronic media. The students have demanded the removal of the A.O. after a formal enquiry investigating his behaviour.
They have demanded an appropriate legal order that will give the students the right to organise themselves into a formal student body. The fourth-year student told Newsclick, “The administration does not want a formal student body to be formed as it would mean their interference in the internal matters of the university. The VC has usurped a huge amount of funds. Even though it’s a law for all institutions to be audited on a regular basis, our university has not been audited even once until now.”
The students have also demanded immediate reconsideration and repealing of the discriminatory practices throughout the university. They have condemned the discriminatory implementation of the in-time in women’s hostels, as a result of which women hostellers can only access the library till 9 PM whereas men are allowed to use the library till 1 AM. Women hostellers are not even allowed to step out of their rooms after 11 PM. They have said, “The mandate of the equality of sexes at an academic institution, is of utmost pertinence. The University, in spurts of cosmetic commitment to this equality, applies to rights, a regressive standard, arbitrarily taking away from students their liberty.”
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The fourth-year student said, “In protest against the maladministration and sexism in the university, 180 students from fourth year, seven students from third year, and all students from second year have decided to boycott the midterm examinations. In an attempt to curb the protests, the administration is trying to threaten the students. The VC has tried to use the alumni association to his advantage, asking ex-students to coerce the students to stop the protest.”
Riot Control vehicles have been deployed in the university premises to scare the protesting students. Student bodies from various universities, including National Law University and Delhi University have extended solidarity to the protesting students of RGNUL.