COMING down on campus politics, the Kerala High Court has said that “political activities like dharna, hunger strike or other practices like satyagraha have no place in a constitutional democracy, much less in an academic institution”. The division bench of Chief Justice Navaniti Prasad Singh and Justice Raja Vijayaraghava made the observation while considering a petition from the principal of a college at Ponnani in Malappuram district run by the Muslim Educational Society. The principal had sought an order against the agitation of CPM student wing Students’ Federation of India that has been on at the campus now for 50 days.
The SFI has been demanding that the management reinstate 11 students who were suspended in connection with election to the college students’ union. The college had arraigned SFI leader G Vishnu as one of the respondents in the petition.
Ordering police to remove the protesting students, the court mentioned the SFI leader in its observation, saying, “The first thing which crosses our mind is whether he goes to the college to indulge in politics or study, for we hold that in an academic institution, politics or political activities cannot be permitted… Anyone who indulges in said activities in an educational institution would make himself liable to be expelled or rusticated.”
Advising the SFI leader to focus on academics, the court added, “We would warn and caution him to concentrate on his studies rather than (indulging) in politics on the college premises… He may withdraw from college to continue his political career.”
On the SFI dharna on the college campus, the court said that such protests only vitiate the academic atmosphere. It said the management has the right to rusticate any student found resorting to dharna, strike or disruption of academic atmosphere. It posted the petition for further hearing on October 16.
Senior state leaders, including the Congress’s A K Antony, CPM state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan and former chief minister V S Achuthanandan criticised the court order. Antony said if campus politics was banned, colleges would fall into the grip of communal forces.
SFI state president Jaik C Thomas said they would hold an agitation against the court order. He said it infringes upon the democratic rights of students to react against injustice. Any attempt against campus politics would be defeated by the student community along with civic society, Thomas said.