A final year PhD student at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has moved the Delhi High Court, alleging that he has not been able to attend classes since February due to the ongoing agitation by students and teachers against the issue of compulsory attendance.
Hearing the plea on Thursday, a bench of Justice Rekha Palli told the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) to “go and protest at India Gate… (and) allow students, teachers and administration of JNU to function”.
“… You (protesters) have been earmarked space at the Sabarmati lawn in the campus, away from the administrative block, to peacefully protest… Students have every right to protest for their demands, but it cannot take away the right… of other students who want to study,” the bench added.
The bench’s oral remarks came while hearing a plea filed on April 3 by Dinesh Ashok (31), a final year PhD student at the Centre for International Legal Studies, School of International Studies.
Since February, the JNUSU and others have been protesting outside various centres and schools against the compulsory attendance rule.
Ashok, through his counsel Sindhu Sinha, submitted in court that the university be directed to take appropriate measures in accordance with law to ensure that students are not deprived of attending lectures, seminars and other academic activities due to the strike. The petitioner also urged the court to exempt loss of attendance of those unable to attend classes due to non-resolution of the issue between the varsity and the students’ union.
JNU counsel Monika Arora supported the issues raised by the student, and submitted that around 6,000 students are suffering because of the agitation. She also contended that around five of the schools have been permanently shut down.
Arora, who was assisted by advocate Kushal Kumar, also produced a picture of the campus and photos of agitating students. The bench then directed the JNUSU to file its response before the next date of hearing on April 13.
The court also recorded in its order that the JNUSU had admitted to being part of the protest. However, the counsel for JNUSU submitted that other organisations on campus are also behind the protest, and denied locking up buildings and blocking administrative work during the agitation.
Ashok, in his plea, said he is aggrieved by the university’s inaction to provide an atmosphere for students like him to attend classes without any obstruction. “The university has failed in its responsibility to take necessary measures to resolve the situation, either through an effective dialogue with protesters or by taking appropriate action,” the plea said.
“If the situation is not resolved… students will not meet the attendance criteria… and the university may, on strict implementation of rules, not allow students with grants and facilities on campus, besides restricting their registration for the next semester,” it added.
Students are protesting against the various circulars issued by the JNU administration on measures that will be taken if they are unable to meet the 75% attendance criteria — including stopping of fellowships/scholarships, withdrawal of hostel seats and debarring them from sitting for examinations or registering for the next semester. Prior to this, attendance was not compulsory at the university.