The Allahabad High Court on Friday issued notices to the Vice-Chancellor and the Registrar of Aligarh Muslim University seeking their response on a PIL seeking direction to the varsity authorities to allow entry of women students into the Maulana Azad Library.
Hearing the PIL filed by Deeksha Dwivedi and other law students, a division bench comprising Chief Justice D Y Chandrachud and Justice P K S Baghel fixed November 24 as next date of hearing.
A controversy has erupted over the AMU not allowing its women undergraduates access to the library. The Human Resource Development Ministry has also sought an explanation on the issue.
The PIL was filed Thursday, but the Divison Bench took up the matter out-of-turn on Friday following a mention by Smriti Kartikeya, the counsel of the petitioners
Issuing the notices to the respondents, which also includes the Union of India, the bench said, “Prima facie, it appears that any effort to regulate a problem of ‘over-crowding’ in a campus library must be on a gender neutral basis”.
The court said a breach of gender neutrality involves “an infraction of Constitutional norms in relation to the guarantees of equality under Article 14 and of gender identity under Article 15 of the Constitution”. It further said that “in the meantime”, it was expected that the Registrar and the V-C “deal with the matter as responsible statutory authorities should”.
While AMU’s counsel, Ikram Ahmad, could not appear before the court due to personal reasons, the bench issued notices, while taking note of the fact that the PIL was based on newspaper clippings of leading English dailies, including The Indian Express.
The reports raised the issue of women undergraduates not being granted access to the Maulana Azad Library. Amid the controversy, the V-C, Lt Gen (Retd) Zameer Uddin Shah, sought to explain that women undergraduates were not allowed because of “lack of space”. He had also allegedly said that the presence of women will only increase the number of male students visiting the library manifold.
Apart from this controversy, the AMU V-C is already facing another petition in which his “eligibility” to be on the post has been questioned.