The Delhi High Court Friday granted “conditional relief” to Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) students who had been awarded a range of punishments by the university over their alleged involvement in the February 9 incident, and issued a stay on the disciplinary action and penalties imposed on them.
However, the court said the students, who had gone on an indefinite hunger strike from April 28 to protest the punishments, would have to call off the strike.
The university administration, on the basis of a report by a High Level Enquiry Committee, had rusticated three students, including Umar Khalid, Anirban Bhattacharya and Kashmiri research scholar Mujeeb Gattoo. It had also slapped fines on several others, including JNU Students’ Union president Kanhaiya Kumar. The students had challenged the disciplinary action, claiming they had been handed out punishments without either a proper hearing or a notice.
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Hours after the high court order, JNU students agreed to call off the hunger strike.
The bench of Justice Manmohan observed that the students had filed appeals and representations before JNU’s appellate authority against the disciplinary orders. “Since an appeal is continuation of the main proceedings and no date of hearing is fixed in the present appeals, this court is of the opinion that the petitioners cannot be condemned unheard,” it said.
The bench then issued a stay on the orders of JNU’s disciplinary committee till the appellate authority came to a decision on the students’ appeals.
However, the court warned that the “protection guaranteed” by it was conditional and it would be applicable only if the students “immediately withdraw the current agitation.” The court also barred the students from participating in any agitation till the matter was legally resolved.
“At the outset, learned counsel for petitioners assure and undertake to this court that JNUSU as well as its affiliated bodies would withdraw their pending strike and would not indulge in any strike or dharna or agitation in future in connection with the issues before this court and/or till the legal proceedings pending as of date between the parties attain finality. They further assure this court that discipline on the campus shall be maintained. However, they pray that they be given permission to make peaceful appeal/representation to the concerned authorities…” stated the court.
The bench also pulled up JNU authorities for failing to resolve the issue, with the judge telling them, “your administration is also alive to the students. Talk to them”.
Noting the media coverage of the issue, the bench said “students need to study” and “JNU should be a normal place with no journalists hanging around.”
‘We will continue our struggle’
Several JNU students, who had gone on an indefinite hunger strike 16 days ago, decided to call it off after the High Court urged them to do so.
JNUSU vice-president Shehla Rashid said, “The hunger strike has been broken… however, we will continue our struggle against the reduction in deprivation points and changes in OBC reservations”.
Earlier in the day, the JNU Teachers’ Association had also appealed to students to call off their strike.
(With inputs from Aranya Shankar)