#LawSchoolProtests: 10 instances of law students standing up for their rights

Recently, a group of third-year students from NLSIU Bangalore protested against a Professor for allegedly making uncalled for comments on the attire of a female classmate.

But this is not the first time law students, who are trained to be imbued with a sense of right and wrong during the course of their legal education, have gone up in arms.

Be it against the administration or against the media, law students have never been shy to vent their ire against violators of their rights. Here are ten such examples of law students fighting for their rights.

1. No shortage of decorum

National Law School of India University
Professor V Nagaraj allegedly pulled up a third-year student for wearing shorts to class

This week, the country’s premier legal education institution was hit by a sexism controversy.

Professor V Nagaraj allegedly pulled up a third-year student for wearing shorts to class, this despite NLSIU not having a dress code. To make matters worse, the Professor also reportedly made some unsavoury remarks on the character of the student when she objected.

As a show of solidarity, the students protested by turning up in shorts to the Professor’s class the next day and demanding an apology, which would not come. The Professor has denied having made such remarks and the matter will probably be taken up by the administration in the coming days.

2. Petitioning for change

Back in 2013, students as well as faculty members of NUJS Kolkata petitioned for changes in the running of the University.

Both faculty member and students raised issues regarding the policies of the University

The petition filed by the Student Juridical Association (SJA) lamented the “disturbing trend of attrition” amongst the faculty at NUJS over the previous year, going on to state that nine “distinguished faculty members” had either left NUJS or have taken leave for further studies and “other commitments”.

Other issues raised were the decrease in the number of one-credit courses on offer, an LL.M. student (student, not graduate) teaching two courses including the compulsory course of Banking Law, the continued presence of a teacher who is, “legally not allowed to teach law in any University in India”, and the complete absence of a grievance redressal mechanism for students.

The petition also cited a “lack of confidence in the current Vice-Chancellor” Prof Ishwara Bhatt, who subsequently agreed to meet the demands of the faculty and the students. One can only imagine what the state of affairs at one of the oldest NLUs would have been had they not intervened.

3. Beyond good and evil

And students have even gone as far as approaching the courts against the administration. In 2012, 9 students of Gujarat National Law University (GNLU) approached the state’s High Court challenging the examination policies of the University. The High Court set aside GNLU’s decision to detain those students who had not cleared their backlog papers, for one year.

GNLU’s arbitrary “goodness marks” rule was struck down by the Gujarat High Court

Also challenged before the High Court was the concept of “goodness marks”, which the court held to be “a tool in the hands of the Faculty Members, which could be used by them at their own whims and caprice”.

GNLU then proceeded to appeal against the single judge’s ruling, and got a favourable decision as regards the detention of students who had not cleared their exams.

The court, however, upheld the single bench’s decision ruling the goodness marks scheme as arbitrary and illegal.

4. Hungry for justice

NLUJAA students had gone on a hunger strike in 2014

As regards the form of protest, this one is certainly extreme. In late 2014, the students at NLUJAA had gone on protest against the administration’s abject failure to provide them with basic requirements.

The dramatically titled A Saga of Grieved Souls, a memorandum on the state of affairs at the university, highlighted the absence of permanent faculty, insufficient books in the library, and lack of medical facilities, among other problems.

After several attempts to reach out to the Chancellor of the University failed, the students went on a hunger strike.

5. What about me?

DSNLU students protesting the government order

In July 2014, an innocuous looking Government Order became the centre of controversy at the Damodaram Sanjivayya National Law University, Visakhapatnam.

The order stated that the government had decided to establish a “NALSAR type” Law University in the newly formed state, effectively ignoring the existence of DSNLU.

The students of DSNLU went on strike for more than a week, fearing that the State’s resources would be channelled to the new institute, with little left for the existing university.

7. Squatters rights

Ambedkar Law College
The Ambedkar Law College, which has been shifted to the outskirts of Chennai

Just last year, chaos ensued in Chennai, following the Tamil Nadu government’s announcement to shift the campus of Dr. Ambedkar Law College to the outskirts of the city.

The students went on hunger strike, even going as far as to disrupt traffic on the city’s roads. This eventually led the college to be shut for a week.

The students also filed a PIL in the Madras High Court to prevent the shifting of the campus. However, a bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul held the move to be necessary, and criticized the students for taking the law into their own hands.

8. No laughing matter

A group of students held up placards terming Matthew as a “sexist pig”

Comedian Abish Matthew was heckled off stage when a group of students of National Law University, Delhi protested against his apparently sexist jokes.

Matthew, who was invited to perform stand-up at the University’s cultural fest, Kairos, ended up dividing opinion, with a majority of the students expressing their displeasure at their peers’ actions.

The incident threw up an interesting debate on the right to protest versus freedom of speech and expression.

8. Money for nothing

Screen Shot 2015-05-18 at 12.34.49 pm
Recently the students boycotted the Psychology exam

In May last year, a student of the National University of Study and Research in Law (NUSRL), Ranchi, wrote a letter to the Chief Minister of the state highlighting the shortcomings of the University.

The difficulties faced by the students included frequent power cuts, lack of cold water in the summers and inadequate infrastructure – both physical and in terms of manpower.

This state of affairs was particularly hard to digest, given the fact that NUSRL charges the highest fees among the CLAT law schools.

Almost a year on, and little has changed. This week, the students boycotted an exam to protest the lack of competent faculty in the subject of Psychology.

10. United in arms

Days after the alleged gang-rape of a student of NLSIU; a group of students and alumni staged a sit down protest before Town Hall in Bangalore. The students demanded improvement in law enforcement within the Jnanabharati region where NLSIU is situated.

The protestors also condemned the manner in which the incident was reported in the media.

10. Pressing issues

NALSAR students took the TV channel to task for filming them coming out of a pub

And speaking of irresponsible media coverage, a local TV channel was slapped with a Rs. 1 lakh fine for a misleading story involving NALSAR students.

In April 2013, Sakshi TV was one of several media outlets that had broadcast a grossly erroneous story in connection with students of NALSAR, portraying them as “drunk” and “creating a ruckus” while leaving a pub in Hyderabad city.

In fact, as per the students, the incident was one involving a gross violation of privacy, with cameramen filming women students as they left the pub. Worse, one of them was even heckling the students, trying to provoke an angry reaction.

The students hit back strong, approaching the News Broadcasting Standards Authority (NBSA) and getting a favourable order.