Delhi High Court Wednesday said that the principles of natural justice applicable in criminal cases would not be the same for disciplinary proceedings being held by a university against its students. Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva made the observation in response to the argument on behalf of some students, including former JNUSU president Kanhaiya Kumar, Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya, that JNU did not give them the due opportunity to defend themselves against the charge of indiscipline.
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Apart from the three, 18 other students have moved the high court challenging Jawaharlal Nehru University’s (JNU) order holding them guilty of indiscipline in connection with a controversial February 9 event. The court heard arguments on behalf of Umar and listed the matter for further hearing on November 7 when it will hear the pleas of the other students. Till then, the interim position will continue, it said.
The students have contended that not giving them due opportunity to defend themselves against the charge of indiscipline, violated the principles of natural justice. The court, however, said a university has to maintain strict discipline amongst its students and where disciplinary proceedings are being held, “you cannot expect the same principles of natural justice as you see in a criminal case.”
It, thereafter, asked the lawyer for the students to show the rules that JNU had to follow while taking disciplinary action against its students. Advocate Akhil Sibal, appearing for Umar, then told the court that the JNU Students Discipline and Conduct Rules say that due opportunity to defend themselves has to be provided.
He said that in the case of Umar, no such opportunity was given to him. He was not even informed about the charges against him and was only told that a high-level enquiry committee was looking into the February 9 incident where he has to appear to explain his role and defend himself, he said.
The students in their pleas have also challenged their punishment, which ranges from rustication for a few semesters to withdrawal of hostel facilities. The appellate authority of the university had rusticated Umar from JNU till December this year, while Bhattacharya was asked to be out of the varsity for five years.
Kanhaiya, Khalid and Bhattacharya were earlier arrested in a sedition case in connection with the February 9 event on the campus against hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised. They are now out on bail.