When Highhandedness Defies the Cardinal Principles of Natural Justice: JNU

Written by Sabrangindia Staff | Published on: April 28, 2016
The action(s) of the JNU administration at the behest of the Modi-driven regime at the Centre and its newly appointed Vice Chancellor, Jagadesh Kumar have been the subject of much discussion and controversy. On February 12 this year this newly appointed Vice Chancellor, seen by many as a stooge of the Modi regime, in an act that has invoked sharp criticism allowed the police into the campus and the arrest of his students while he mis-informed the Deans on this action. The fact that Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association (JNUTA) has stood steadfast in its stand to protect the autonomy of the university and the high standards of debate and scholarship within has been a source of strength to the students.


Image: PTI
Over the past few days, the unilateral decision of this new administration led by Vice Chancellor Jagadesh Kumar to initiate and announce extraordinarily harsh punishments on students –at a time when examinations are on –marks a new low for administration-student relations and the conduct of the VC.

Late last night on April 27, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) has rejected the report of the enquiry committee constituted by the Vice-Chancellor to look into the incident of February 9. JNUSU also rejects its reports and any punishment handed out by it. Twenty students from among the union leadership have gone on an indefinite hunger strike as of last night.

Incidentally, repeated written interventions by both the JNUSU and JNUTA had asked the administration to democratise the enquiry committee, but this was not done. 

Over one and a half months after the submission of Report of the HLEC (High Level Enquiry Committee) report these ‘actions’ have been taken.

Students have called these actions as nothing but a proxy war waged against the students by the Modi govt through its puppets installed in the JNU administration.

12 reasons why these Decisions meting our Punitive Action are Undemocratic:
  1. Three members picked to be part of the HLEC were hand-picked by the then Registrar, Bhupinder Zutshi, known to have close links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) were Prof. Suman Dhar, Prof. H.B. Bohidar and Prof. Rakesh Bhatnagar, who is also the Head of the Committee, to conduct the enquiry Both the JNUSU & JNUTA had demanded the removal of Zutshi after he allowed the police to raid the hostels, and banned the entry of media into the campus. Bhatnagar was ‘awarded’ a President’s Medal soon after he was appointed to the HLEC. Professor Bhatnagar  is closely associated with the anti-reservation student group, “Youth for Equality”.
  2. The then Chief Proctor, Professor Krishna Kumar, had resigned over the way in which a Proctorial Committee was first formed, and then dismissed within four hours of its formation. As a matter of routine, all matters involving students are looked at by the Proctor’s office. However, in this case, the Proctorial committee was dissolved arbitrarily and replaced by a “high level” committee.
  3. The HLEC has no woman, no SC/ST/OBC/minority teachers, and no one from the Social Sciences as members. This when defendant students all hail from poor and marginalised backgrounds, include women and are mostly from the Social Sciences!
  4. The CVO, Chief Vigilance Officer, who under the law governing JNU, is the final appellate authority of the University, but he himself is part of the HLEC. Prof Suman Dhar, who happens to be the CVO, is a member of the Committee. The University Administration has in a defiance of the principles of natural justice denied the students a step of appeal.
  5. When these serious procedural lapses were raised with the VC, he simply added two more members to it. These are simply token additions, as they were added after the entire enquiry process was over. Students through the JNUSU had demanded that, since the composition of the enquiry committee had changed, a fresh probe must be started, as the newly inducted members did not get a chance to cross-examine the witnesses and evidence. This is a legitimate demand, but it was not accepted. Even in the enquiry committee that handed out punishments to Rohith Vemula and his friends, a token Dalit member was added in the end. This is a shamefully cosmetic move and does not make any difference to the enquiry process.
  6. It was due to these lapses that students refused to participate in the enquiry process. Based on one-sided depositions of ABVP members, the enquiry committee has come up with massive fines, rustication, draconian out-of-bounds orders and what not?
  7. The HLEC conclusions have been random and ad hoc. Anirban, has been punished with rustication and out-of-bounds orders for five years! Around 14 students have been fined for Rs. 20,000 each and ordered to pay this fine by May 13, 2016 or face hostel eviction. Former JNUSU President, Ashutosh Kumar has been evicted from hostel for one year and fined with Rs. 20,000. Such punishments are unheard of, and reek of extreme vendetta against student activists. This is clearly a last ditch and pathetic effort by the Modi government to break the back of students who have stood firm in their protest.
  8. The HLEC Report does not co-relate the punishment orders mention to the exact crime committed by the students. All the orders cite a statute that reads, “Any other action deemed inappropriate by the Vice-Chancellor.” This cannot be the yardstick to measure the legality of any event. The administration, in these orders, repeatedly says that “taking part in a march”, “raising slogans” is unbecoming of a JNU student. This is ridiculous and unacceptable. In order to punish anyone, a three-step link has to be established by any enquiry committee:
    a) Establish the exact action for which punishment is being handed out.
    b) Justify how that particular action violates a certain University statute.
    c) Justify how a certain violation attracts a certain amount of punishment.

    The committee has not bothered with any of these steps, that in law ocnstitute 'due process' and has 'produced a report handing out punishments that are irrational and vindictive.
  9. The scope of the enquiry committee was never clarified. If it was constituted to look into slogans, why have the provocative slogans being raised by the right-wing student groups not been accounted for? If the enquiry report itself says that outsiders raised the slogans, why are JNU students being punished? Why is there no enquiry into the reason why Zee News was called by JNUSU Joint Secretary, Saurabh Sharma, of the ABVP, an hour before the programme? Why is there no enquiry into the reason Zee News and Times Now circulated doctored videos, even though the Delhi govt has also filed cases against these channels on these very issues? If mere speech and slogans are to be criminalised, why is there no action against Professor Amita Singh, who has called Dalit and Muslim teachers as anti-nationals? Why is there no enquiry committee looking at the violence unleashed by ABVP members on February 13, 2016 against Rajya Sabha MP, Anand Sharma on the JNU campus? Why has the complaint of misbehavior filed by the teachers residing at Paschimabad against ABVP members, not been taken up? Why is JNU administration, despite repeated communications from the JNUSU Vice-President and the JNUTA President, not acted against Amit Jani, who threatened to kill Kanhaiya and Umar, and whose brother has been arrested for planting arms in a JNU-bound bus?
  10. Why has GSCASH representative, Aishwarya Adhikari, been fined with Rs. 20,000 even though her name is not even there in the enquiry committee report?
  11. The HLEC had submitted its report one and a half months back to the VC. However, the VC has waited till the onset of holidays to make the punishments public
  12. Why has the VC not held an Academic Council meeting which is supposed to happen every semester? Every year, there are two AC meetings- one in October and one in April. This is a huge failure on part of the VC, who is so afraid to face the students and the teachers that he cancelled the AC meeting scheduled on the April 19, 2016 and hasn’t reconvened it. The reality is, that without consulting the students and teachers, sweeping changes in admission policy have been brought about by the new administration. It is shocking that, without discussing the issues of reduction of deprivation points for women and BA applicants, and introduction cluster system in BA entrance exam, these changes were brought into the prospectus. Also, bypassing the High Court order to provide relaxation to OBC applicants at two stages, the administration has decided to grant the relaxation at only one level.
Fast on the heels of the high-handed police action, under the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Delhi Government had ordered a Magisterial Inquiry into the incidents.

Sabrangindia.in had been among the few publications to analyse and publish the report . Sections of our story, relevant even now, are republished here: Television as Lynch Mob: DM Report on JNU Incident raises Questions of Media Ethics
 
Newspapers have reported that the Aam Admi Government has reportedly told its legal team to file a criminal case against three channels for airing doctored videos where the words, “ Bandook”, “Sher ke bacche”, and “Hurriyat ke jawaan” were inserted (extraneously) into the videos to mislead the public. Even “Pakistan Zindabad” were telecast although they were not raised at the event after a magisterial inquiry submitted its investigation report.
 
  • Three of the seven videos examined by the Truth Labs, Hyderabad to ascertain whether they were doctored or not, were found to have been doctored. The television channels that telecast these doctored videos have not been named in the report.
  • The reporter and cameraman of Zee News were invited onto the campus at 5.20 p.m. by Saurabh Sharma of the RSS-affiliated Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) who is general secretary of the JNUSU, on February 9, and it is after the telecast by Zee television of the doctored videos the next day that the local police station lodged the FIR. The FIR, filed under section 124A of the Indian penal Code (IPC) did not name any students as offenders.
  • While Zee News/television willingly gave the CD of the Video recording of the news telecast that led to the registration of an FIR to the police, the same news channel, despite repeated requests did not make available any recording for the purpose of the Magisterial Inquiry. This amounts, in law to suppression of evidence and non-cooperation with a judicial officer.
  • Several of the Security Officers under the Administration gave contradictory statements to the District Magistrate and the Internal Inquiry Committee.
The Report submitted by Sanjay Kumar, Magistrate on March 2 completely exonerates Kanhaiya Kumar from shouting any anti-national slogans on February 9, 2016. Even on the role of Umar Khalid, the report states that the voice (allegedly heard giving certain slogans) is not visible on the video from the same source as the image, clearly suggesting doctoring. In the case of Anirban and Ashutosh, certain other slogans could be found to have been uttered by them but the melee and confusion of the crowd makes it difficult to offer certain conclusions. Further investigation has been recommended.

Delhi Government report on JNU Incident
Factual Report by the Government of NCT of Delhi, on the Incident which took place at the JNU Camus on February 9, 2016. Sanjay Kumar, Magistrate, New Delhi

Major Findings of the Report of the District Magistrate (DM):
  1. Nothing adverse could be found against Kanhaiya Kumar. No witness or video available to me could support allegation against him.
  2. Umar Khalid was visible in videos. His support for the role of Afzal Guri is known and he was the organizer of the event. His role needs to be further investigated (Page 1 ) The Magistrate further says that after a close watching of the videos, he “did not hear any slogan from the mouth of Umar Khalid” (Page 23)
  3. Three out of seven videos which were sent for verification were found to be doctored including one news clipping of a News Channel found on You-Tube
 See also full story at
Television as Lynch Mob: DM Report on JNU Incident raises Questions of Media Ethics