RGNUL students detail Administrative Officer's misogyny, casteism, Enquiry Commission starts probe

Bar & Bench April 19 2019
RGNUL

Students of the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Patiala have addressed a detailed letter to their Chancellor, Justice Krishna Murari, highlighting long-standing misogyny, casteism and general abuse of power by (now-suspended) Administrative Officer, SP Singh.

The letter was drafted in view of an ongoing enquiry against Singh by a judicial officer appointed by Justice Murari. A five-day peaceful protest carried out by the students last month, objecting to the alleged systematic maladministration at RGNUL, had culminated in the suspension of Singh until the conclusion of an enquiry into allegations of his misconduct.

The officer tasked to oversee the enquiry is Additional District and Sessions Judge, Manjot Kaur, The first meeting of the enquiry commission was held last afternoon at the RGNUL campus.

Students were directed to present themselves during the meeting to air their grievances. Additionally, students also took to drafting a written complaint beforehand, to record the allegedly abusive reign of SP Singh as the Administrative Officer of RGNUL.

"It was common knowledge on the campus that any interaction with Sh. S.P. Singh, even for airing legitimate concerns and grievances, would necessarily end with punishable harassment, including abusive yelling", states the letter.

The letter goes on to state in lurid detail instances of misogyny, student and staff harassment, corruption, and general arbitrariness in the functioning of SP Singh as the Administrative Officer.

"There was presumptive and toxic moral-policing, wherein female Students were labelled drunkards and a threat to the Indian culture...He has proven himself to be utterly incompetent to handle or address any of the Students’ concerns whatsoever by habitually resorting to his abusive modus operandi."

In this regard, the students have also compiled an extensive list of sexist and casteist statements allegedly made by Singh based on student, alumni and staff testimony.

On the culture of Misogyny

"Ye gender equality ka chashma hataa lo [Get rid of these rose-coloured glasses of gender equality]"

This is perhaps one of the milder sexist statements attributed to SP Singh in the student representation. It indicates that an overwhelming number of students have come forward to recount instances where Singh had resorted to making blatantly misogynist and sexually coloured remarks. The remarks were predominantly directed against female students. A small fraction of the remarks so recorded include the following:

"Drink karti ho, smoke toh karti hi hogi, chhote kapde bhi pehenti hogi. Tum iss hostel me ladkiyon ko bigadh rahi ho, rehna nahi dung[a] yahaan. Kalank ho tum yahaan pe!

[You drink, which means you must smoke also; I'm sure you also dress inappropriately. You are ruining the girls of this college, and I will not let you stay here. You are a disgrace!]"

"You have embarrassed your parents by turning up drunk. Had you been a boy, I would have understood."

"Agar Agarwal ki ladkiya daru piyeingi, toh Jatton ke ladko ka kya hoga?'[What will the Jatt boys do, if Agarwal girls will start drinking?]"

"RGNUL ki ladkiyon par bahar available ka tag laga hua hai aur hame is baat se sharamaati hai [The girls of RGNUL carry the tag of being available outside the campus and we are very ashamed of it]"

"Bahar jao toh you must be properly dressed, ladkiya kuch bhi kar le ladkiyan hi rehti hain'[If you girls want to go out, wear proper clothes and 'no matter what the circumstance, girls should remember that they are girls]"

"Koi reason hoga hi, isliye aajkal itni jaldi ladkiyon ko call girls samajh lete hai [There must be some reason which is why girls nowadays are being labelled as call girls this quickly]."

Apart from Singh, the letter also records sexist statements allegedly made by Hostel Warden Shilpa Jain, University Dean Anand Pawar, Chief Officer of the Medical Centre Gayatri Sharma and Vice-Chancellor Paramjit S Jaiswal.

Summing up the sordid state of affairs that the letter indicates is the norm at the University, it is noted,

"It appears Sh. S.P. Singh habitually abused his power and violated the law, confident of the University administration’s support and immune to any student complains to the higher authorities within the University administration."

Casteist behaviour by SP Singh 

The letter goes on to submit that Singh is known to routinely abuse Class IV employees at RGNUL, even going so far as to make casteist remarks against them.

"... we were shocked and appalled to come across instances of Sh. S.P. Singh indulging in unconstitutional casteist and criminally-punishable violent behaviour accompanied by illegal and whimsical threats of immediate dismissal", states the student representation.

It further highlights that an environment of fear has prevented the staff from initiating action against Singh's misconduct. In fact, the students' representation further intimates,

"Class IV employees were repeatedly pleading before us to not disclose their names or identities in any way or manner to the University authorities, while a few even broke down in tears – begging us to keep any information they provide to ourselves."

Among the list of derogatory remarks attributed the Singh in the student representation, are the following,

“'Tu chamaar hai' (you are from the lower caste – leathermaker),

'तुम चुडे चमार लोगो को काम नही करना नही आता कही भी गंद फे ला कर रखी है' (You (name of the caste) people do not know how to work, you have dirtied everything everywhere),

'चमार”'(Lower caste – leathermaker), 'चूड़े' (Backward class), 'गंदे लोग'(Filthy people)..."

Several employees also complained of being forced to do personal chores for Singh, under threats of rustication.

On SP Singh's tainted history prior to joining RGNUL

The students have highlighted that as per information available on the public domain, SP Sigh's service as in various administrative capacities over state prisons has been marred by corruption and abuse of power. In this regard, the students point to various newspaper reports.

As noted in the complaint, in 2001, the State Human Rights Commission even recommended the initiation of criminal action against Singh for allegedly being implicit in orchestrating an attack on an undertrial prisoner. Singh was the deputy superintendent of the prison at the time.

In 2005, he was arrested by the Vigilance Bureau on allegations that he was complicit in large scale misappropriation of funds at a prison in Patiala. In 2010, a report on the magisterial probe to look into the beating of certain prisoners by the police noted that Singh did not perform his duty with full honesty. Singh was Superintendent of the prison at the time.

The students have requested that the Enquiry Commission call for SP Singh's service records to further verify these reports. Further, it is also intimated that a Right to Information (RTI) Act application filed for Singh's records is awaiting a response.

In this backdrop, the students have also queried how Singh was appointed to the Administrative Officer post at RGNUL. An annexure in the complaint also contains a series of questions posed by the students in this regard.

Over and above this issue, the students have also raised an objection regarding the non-availability of the RGNUL rules regulating the appointment and powers of the Administration.

Expectations regarding a person who is appointed Administrative Officer

In view of the rampant abuse of power which allegedly marked SP Singh's tenure as the Administrative Officer, the students propose certain reformatory measures as well. Before the appointment, it is insisted that the following mandates be complied with:

  • a thorough background check of the candidate,
  • proper police clearance certification,
  • there should be no criminal record,
  • the candidate must have prior administrative experience in an educational institute.

Further, it is also opined that there should be a separation of powers and objective rules governing the functioning of the Administrative Officer in the interest of fairness and transparency.

"Ideally, such officer should only deal with administrative staff. Student grievances should be resolved by the Dean Student Welfare alone. In case there is an explicit need for an officer to enforce discipline, such person’s power must be regulated and governed by a certain set of pre-set rules/ regulations to maintain fairness and transparency."

In a separate statement, the students also express hope that the concerns raised will be treated seriously. It states,

"The infamous, typical way of dealing with such situations at RGNUL administration has been a show of utter arrogance and contempt towards any efforts to instil administrative accountability and transparency in our beloved institution’s administrative working.

We hope that with the permanent dismissal of Sh. S.P. Singh and publication of the rules/regulations of RGNUL, General Council minutes, Executive Council minutes, Academic Council minutes, Finance Committee minutes and the Financial Statements we are able to remedy this situation at priority."

To read the full student representation, click here.

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