RGNUL Protests: Students emerge victorious on Day 5 after AG Atul Nanda steps in to mediate

Meera Emmanuel March 19 2019

Student protests at the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Patiala have finally come to an end  after the administration formally undertook to accept all four demands put forth by the students in a meeting mediated by Advocate General for Punjab, Atul Nanda.

The protests had erupted last Friday over the “arbitrary and wrongful” suspension of six hostel inmates as well as long-standing systemic issues. Over the course of the agitation, four major areas of concern were highlighted by the student protestors:

  • Revocation of the suspension order issued on 15th March 2019
  • A formal inquiry into the conduct of the Administrative Officer of the University, SP Singh. Notably, students have also registered collective protest against SP Singh's alleged history of making sexist comments against female students.
  • The formalisation of a student representative body at RGNUL
  • Review/repeal of discriminatory practices enfranchised by the University. In particular, the discriminatory treatment meted out to female students when it comes to in-times, application for leave etc. were highlighted.

Initial rounds of conciliatory talks between the administration and the students failed after the authorities refused to issue any formal order accepting the student demands unless the protest was first called off.

However, a written agreement acceding to all the four demands was finally drawn out in today's mediatory meeting. The agreement was made in the presence of AG Nanda, Vice Chancellor Dr Paramjit Jaswal and student representatives from each batch. The agreement intimates that the following terms have been mutually agreed upon by all sides.

  • The suspension of the six students is revoked unconditionally
  • An independent probe will be conducted into the conduct of Administrative Officer SP Singh by a judicial officer nominated by the University Chancellor. SP Singh will be sent on compulsory leave immediately until the conclusion of the inquiry. The inquiry is to be concluded within three months. SP Singh will not be allowed access to the University premises in the meanwhile.
  • The students have been permitted to constitute a representative general body. The agreement also outlines the setting up of a student interim committee to go about constituting RGNUL's first such student representative body. 
  • Uniform curfews have been set for both female and male students. The in-campus curfew has been set at 8 pm and the in-hostel time for both girls and boys has been set at 12 am. 

As per a source, the students were also told that the complaints filed with the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) and the National Commission for Women (NCW) regarding the protests would have to be withdrawn as part of the deal. However, a written undertaking said to have been made to this effect is yet to be publicised.

The agreement comes five days into unrelenting student protests against maladministration at RGNUL. The protests were triggered by a suspension order issued by Administrative Officer SP Singh on March 15 against six inmates of the boys' hostel. The order followed a protest over the quality of mess food in the boys’ hostel on March 13.

Students collectively objected to this suspension order as being arbitrary and invalid, more so since it was issued without a proper hearing and in the absence of Vice-Chancellor Dr Jaswal. When the University administration refused to revoke the suspension orders, student grievances concerning broader issues of maladministration also began to form a part of the agitation.

As the impasse continued, students chose to remain outdoors in peaceful protest, even sleeping outside for three days. Mid-semester exams which began on Monday also saw a low turnout, after it was collectively decided that all students, save for the final year students, would boycott the exam. Following today's agreement, the University has also issued a revised schedule for these mid-semester examinations.

The popular protest also drew in support from various student bodies across law schools and universities, including the NLU consortium and RGNUL alumni.

Read the Mutual Agreement resolving the RGNUL student protests below:

Image courtesy: Twitter

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