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Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Ragging: wielding stick but sparing rod

The argument against a crackdown on ragging remains that it is an “ice-breaker”,or “harmless fun to get to know freshers”.....

Written by Krishnadas Rajagopal | Published: March 11, 2009 12:40:52 am

The argument against a crackdown on ragging remains that it is an “ice-breaker”,or “harmless fun to get to know freshers”. However,the death of 19-year-old Aman Kachroo,a medical student at a college in Himachal Pradesh,is more evidence of the serious turn it can take. The Supreme Court has passed two orders, in 2001 and 2007 on the basis of recommendations made by an SC-appointed expert panel headed by former CBI director R K Raghavan,to curb ragging,even labelling it a criminal offence and directing the police to file FIRs within 24 hours of receiving a complaint,but so far this hasn’t proved a deterrent:

Definitions of ragging

On May 4,2001,in the case of Vishwa Jagriti Mission vs Union of India,the Supreme Court defined the term as: “Any disorderly conduct whether by words spoken or written or by an act which has the effect of teasing,treating or handling with rudeness any other student…” “Indulging in rowdy or undisciplined activities which cause or are likely to cause annoyance,hardship or psychological harm or to raise fear or apprehension…”

“Asking the students to do any act or perform something which such student will not do in the ordinary course and which has the effect of causing or generating a sense of shame or embarrassment so as to adversely affect the physique or psyche of a fresher or a junior student.”

The four categories of ragging according to the Raghavan Committee

1. Any act that prevents,disrupts or disturbs the regular academic activity of a student comes within the academics-related aspect of ragging… Exploiting the services of a junior student for academic tasks is also an aspect of academics-related ragging in professional institutions in medicine.

2. Any act of financial extortion or forceful expenditure burden is ragging based on economic dimensions.

3. Any act of physical abuse — including sexual abuse,stripping,forcing obscene acts,gestures,causing bodily harm or any other danger — is ragging with criminal dimensions.

4. Any act or abuse by spoken words,e-mails,letters,public

insults,or any act that affects the mental health and self-confidence of students is considered the psychological aspects of ragging.

‘Root cause’ of ragging

The Division Bench of Justices R C Lahoti and Brijesh Kumar in 2001 distinguished the root cause of ragging as “deriving sadistic pleasure or showing off power,authority or superiority by the seniors over their juniors or freshers”.

The Raghavan Committee squarely blamed state governments and heads of educational institutions,mostly private ones,for the problem. “The Committee notes with concern that firstly there are very few states that have enacted laws in respect to ragging. Even these few existing state laws are woefully lacking in provisions intended to prevent ragging,” said the report. According to the panel,the state Governments just pass the buck to educational heads,who “prefer to remain mute spectators” to incidents of ragging in their institutions. The SC’s intervention,it says,has had hardly any effect on sexual and physical ragging. Interestingly,the panel suggested that presence of college politics reduces ragging as it gives a sense of democracy within the institution.

Supreme Court guidelines

In 2001,the Supreme Court saw ragging as a sociological issue,rather than a criminal offence. It directed the police to treat “students as students and not criminals”. It further prescribed the “punishment” for ragging,which included threat of expulsion from college,withdrawal of scholarships or other benefits,withholding exam results,suspension or expulsion from hostel or mess. The court,however,was lenient as far as criminal action against students indulging in ragging went. The Bench noted that police should be involved in the matter only if the ragging becomes “unmanageable”.

Six years later,the Raghavan panel,observed in its report to the apex court that the 2001 recommendations had not curbed ragging,and there was a rise in sexual and physical ragging. In 2007,the Supreme Court finally accepted ragging as a crime,often involving “cognisable offences” — a marked difference in attitude. The Bench led by Justice Arijit Pasayat made it mandatory for the police to file an FIR within 24 hours of receiving a complaint about an incident of ragging.

‘criminal activities’ constituting ragging

Coercion,criminal intimidation,assault,battery,sexual abuse,rape and murder.

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