RGNUL Patiala students protest suspension of six hostel inmates, systemic issues at University

Meera Emmanuel March 16 2019

Students of the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Patiala have come out in protest against the suspension of six students on Friday. The immediate catalyst for this suspension appears to be a protest that erupted in the boys' hostel on Wednesday over the quality of mess food being served. However, in a tale reminiscent of protests that have been mushrooming across NLUs in the recent years, the "arbitrary" manner in which the suspension was imposed has now also dug up broader student grievances concerning maladministration at RGNUL. In a bid to resolve the mounting protests, RGNUL Chancellor and Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, Krishna Murari are expected to meet the students this evening.

Update at 3.45 Am on March 17, 2019.

Students sleeping on the streets protesting against the administration at RGNUL

The protests, which commenced around 8 pm on Friday evening, was prompted after six students were ordered to vacate their hostel premises by an order of the Administrative Officer, on accusations of having "indulged in indiscipline and hooliganism" in the boys' hostel.

A committee comprising the Administrative Officer and other hostel authorities/faculty had been constituted shortly after this protest. The committee affixed the blame on six students who were served the order of suspension. As per a source, the students were directed to vacate the hostel premises within an hour of being served the suspension order, despite the fact that they were students from other states.

Bar & Bench was further told that amidst the interrogation process which preceded the suspension, a faculty member also confiscated the phone of a student. The student was forced to unlock his phone for the faculty to access, in a bid to find out whether any blame could be fixed on other students. The confiscated phone was then retained by the faculty. Objections made against such an intrusion were met with verbal abuse from the faculty, as per student representatives.

"Upon insisting that fundamental right of privacy are being violated, the Faculty shamelessly and unreasonably responded with abuses and stated that the students are in no position to teach them the Law", states a statement issued by students.

The suspension order has been faulted for having been passed without any formal hearing and in the absence of University Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Paramjit Jaswal. Instead, the order has only been signed off by the "Administrative Officer". Students have protested the same as wrongful, arbitrary and violative of the law governing RGNUL.

The Suspension Order signed off by Administrative Officer SP Singh

Scores of student protestors are said to have gathered outside the University guesthouse last night to register their objection against the suspension orders. The mass demonstration prompted a response from two judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, who were present at the guesthouse.

Eventually, the students were told that Chancellor Justice Krishna Murari had agreed to constitute a committee to look into the grievances raised. It was initially communicated that the Chancellor would arrive at the University on Sunday to address a general student body meeting in this regard. However, it has now been communicated that the Chancellor will be arriving at the University today to meet the students.

Scenes from the RGNUL campus this morning

On Saturday morning, the students were also told that the suspension orders could be stalled, on the condition that the student agitation is called off. This, despite the students assuring the University authorities that the protests will remain peaceful. Student protestors had stayed outside overnight as part of their demonstration.

Scenes from the RGNUL protest site this morning

Scenes from the RGNUL campus this morning. Two judges of the Punjab and Haryana High Court and Vice Chancellor, RGNUL, Dr Paramjit S Jaswal present

However, in the absence of written assurances from the administration, the students were reluctant to call off the protests. The University's response to student protests had prompted some apprehension on whether the oral assurances to address student grievances will be carried out.

While the protests carried out yesterday were more or less peaceful, a source told Bar & Bench that the University called in Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel to the campus. The RAF officers were also seen carrying heavy ammunition into the campus.

Scenes from the RGNUL campus this morning


Officers as seen bringing in ammunition to the RGNUL campus on Friday

Officers continued to be stationed at the RGNUL campus this morning

The immediate protests have also led the students to outline broader systemic areas of concern with the University's administration. In this regard, an application has been addressed to the University Chancellor and the Vice-Chancellor seeking the resolution of these issues. The initial draft raises the following issues:

  • Inadequate representation of the students in the decision-making process of the university
  • Discriminatory implementation of the rules regarding actual practise in the Timings of Hostels
  • Lack of Transparency in Administration
  • Sexist Remarks of Administrators
  • Discriminatory and unreasonable timings of library
  • Extra restrictions on the mobility of girls within the hostels
  • Inter-block movement of the female students within the hostel is restricted
  • Incompetent faculty.
  • Misuse and flagrant violations of the RGNUL Act and Student regulations and the brochure
  • Misuse of University resources
  • Indifference to sexual harassment complaints both on-campus and in its vicinity, and finally
  • Poor and ever degrading food quality in both hostels.

The suspension order which triggered the student body to raise these grievances has been issued days before the students were due to start their mid-term examinations on Monday The suspension order states that the suspended students may take their exams. However, they are only allowed to enter the University ten minutes prior to the exam. Further, they are to leave the University premises within fifteen minutes of the exam being completed.

It is understood that a more detailed memorandum was being prepared on the above-mentioned issues.

Bar & Bench was unable to contact the University authorities at the time of publishing this story.

Update: Chancellor fails to appear; student protests to continue

It appears that despite oral assurances being made earlier in the day, University Chancellor Krishna Murari did not meet with the students today. Instead, Justice Mahesh Grover, the third senior-most judge of the Punjab and Haryana High Court arrived in the evening to address the issues being protested by the students. Justice Grover also happens to be a member of RGNUL's General Council.

A source told Bar & Bench that the students put forth four primary demands during the meeting which followed Justice Grover's arrival today. The four demands were  as follows, i.e.

  1. That a probe be initiated into the maladministration by Administrative Officer SP Singh, and that appropriate orders be passed thereafter to relieve him of his position.
  2. That the suspension order against the six students passed by the Administrative Officer on Friday be revoked.
  3. That the in-time for female students be revised.
  4. That the University allow the constitution of student body representatives/student council.

It appears that the students were initially assured that the first two demands would be acceded to. However, the authorities proceeded to insist that the students should immediately call off their protests as a precondition.

The students were also told that the mid-semester exams would proceed as scheduled on Monday if the agitation is not called off. On the other hand, if the student protests were called off, the authorities indicated that they would postpone the exams for the students.

As for the latter two demands (regarding revised in-time and constitution of a student body council), it is said that only vague oral assurances were given to the effect that the University administration may consider allowing the same after further deliberation.

Overall, the students appear to have gotten no written assurance as of yet that any of their demands will be met. A request made for issuing a copy of the minutes of today's meeting was also declined. In view of the same, the students are continuing with their agitation.

Student protestors are hoping to have a direct meeting with the University Chancellor in order to resolve their grievances. As highlighted by a student source,

"We demand that the Chancellor come talk to us. After everything is said and done he is our Chancellor too. That's the key demand tonight."

Read the Full Application made earlier today below:

RGNUL protest - application

Follow the RGNUL Student Council twitter page for more updates of the protest here.

Watch videos from the protest site this morning at RGNUL below:



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