Media reports on LL.M. topper based on incorrect facts: NLU Delhi administration

Bar & Bench August 20 2019
NLU Delhi

The stir caused by LL.M. topper Surbhi Karwa's decision to skip the Convocation ceremony  at National Law University, Delhi (NLU Delhi) as a mark of protest has prompted the administration of the University to issue a statement asserting that news reports on the same were founded on certain factual errors.

In particular, the press note, issued on behalf of the NLU Delhi Vice-Chancellor Dr. Ranbir Singh, claims that Karwa was never to be awarded her medal by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi, who was the Chief Guest for the Convocation ceremony. It states,

"As per the scheme of award finalised by the University, no medal was to be awarded to LL.M. topper by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India. Nor did the University ever make any such communication to any student including Ms. Surabhi Karwa.  In fact the said topper was to receive the medal from Mr. Vijay Dev, Chief Secretary, Delhi NCT.  The medals were also given by the other dignitaries present.

As per the programme, only two undergraduate students were to be awarded the medals by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India during the Convocation."

Karwa's abstention during the ceremony made headlines yesterday after she informed the Indian Express that moral concerns over the Supreme Court's failure to address the sexual harassment allegations against CJI Gogoi had prompted her decision. Speaking to the Indian Express, she had said,

"Everything I learnt in the classroom put me in a moral quandary over the last few weeks on whether I should receive the award from CJI Gogoi. The institution he heads failed when sexual harassment allegations were made against him...I am seeking answers for myself on the role lawyers must play in guarding Constitutional values, and that is something even the CJI mentioned in his speech."

The NLU Delhi administration has now raised issue that Karwa did not inform the University about her concerns. In this regard, the press note states,

"Ms Surabhi Karwa never intimated her concerns to the University as portrayed in the media. Moreover, Ms Surabhi Karwa was also not present in the rehearsal of the Convocation held on 16 August from 3.30 PM onwards to share her concerns.

The name of Ms Surabhi Karwa was called as matter of required protocol of the Convocation and it was mentioned that her medal was awarded “in absentia’’ as the University had no information about her plans to attend the Convocation or sending anybody else on her behalf to receive the award."

The press note concludes,

"As University, we are highly perturbed over this instance as it has caused an unnecessary inconvenience to the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India. 

The University intends to take up this matter with utmost sincerity and proposes to take up all necessary measures in this direction."

When contacted by Bar & Bench, Karwa refused to comment.

In April this year, a former staff member of the Supreme Court had levelled allegations that Chief Justice Gogoi had made unwelcome advances towards her in October 2018 while she worked as a junior assistant in his office. A three-judge in-house inquiry panel, however, eventually concluded that there was no substance in the allegations raised.