RGNUL Protest enters Day 3; NLU student consortium, other student bodies express solidarity

Meera Emmanuel March 17 2019

After talks with the administration failed, students at the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Patiala have decided to continue their protests. As the agitation entered day 3, the venue shifted to the University gates this morning.

The students were raising the slogan of Azadi. Here is a short video:

Student protestors have remained outdoors since their demonstration commenced on Friday night. In the meanwhile, e-mails have been sent out by the University to parents. As the agitation continues, various student bodies have expressed their solidarity with the students of RGNUL.

The story so far

The protests erupted on Friday over the "arbitrary and wrongful" suspension of six hostel inmates as well as long-standing systemic issues of maladministration.

The suspension order was issued by Administrative Officer SP Singh. Students objected to the suspension order as being invalid, since it was issued without a proper hearing and in the absence of Vice-Chancellor Dr Paramjit Jaswal.

However, when the University administration refused to revoke the suspension orders, student grievances concerning maladministration at the University also began to form a part of the agitation.

To resolve the deadlock, University Chancellor Justice Krishna Murari,  who is also the Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court, had been expected to meet the student protestors. However, in his stead, Justice Mahesh Grover had met the students yesterday in an attempt to mediate.

The talks failed after the administration declined to issue any written assurance that the student grievances would be resolved. A student told Bar & Bench that mere oral assurances inspired little confidence among the protestors, given the recurring pattern of maladministration.

In the meanwhile, the University is said to have addressed e-mails to the parents of the students in a bid to allay the ongoing protests. Earlier, the administration also indicated that the mid-semester exams scheduled for tomorrow would proceed as scheduled if the students do not call off their protests.

Student protestors chose to remain outdoors overnight for a second time on Saturday. In the early hours of Sunday morning, the protestors also lit candles outside the Vice-Chancellor's residence as a mark of protest.

Student protestors lit candles as they sat outside the Vice Chancellor's residence in a mark of protest

Four student grievances highlighted

Over the course of the agitation, four major areas of concern have been highlighted by the student protestors. These relate to Friday's suspension order, the conduct of Administrative Officer SP Singh, the lack of formal student body representatives and discriminatory policies of the University. To redress the same, a memorandum drafted yesterday has put forth the following demands,

  • Revocation of the suspension order issued on 15th March 2019
  • A formal inquiry into the conduct of the Administrative Officer of the University.
  • The formalisation of the Student Body of RGNUL
  • Thorough 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. has been highlighted.

Student bodies express solidarity

Solidarity has poured in from various student bodies, including the NLU student consortium. The statement reads,

"We empathise with the students of RGNUL and their struggle against the draconian actions of their administration. It is agonising to witness the unreasonable and discriminatory campus and library curfew, the sheer opaqueness and the consequent lack of accountability on part of the administration for their actions and most importantly, the attempts made to thwart the materialization of any Student Collective that may become the voice of the students and the wrongful suspension of six students. It is truly disheartening to bear witness to the callous response of the authorities to peacefully protesting students.

We also extend our solidarity to the students of all the other NLUs who are confronting similar draconian regulations, where the importance of dissent and the spirit of questioning and accountability have been trampled on by those exercising unchecked power."

A representation addressed to the University authorities by the Alumni Association of RGNUL states,

"As stakeholders deeply connected to the University and the Students, the Alumni Association reiterates the necessity to uphold the (i) core ideals and principles which form the foundation of this great University and; (i) Objects and principles as set out under the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab Act, 2006 and the Constitution of India.

The Alumni Association redraws your attention to the fact of the current academic session coming to a close soon in the May of 2019. We request your hon’ble selves to ensure no harm comes in the way of the best interests of the Students who have spoken together for a cause that is just, reasonable and urgent. Bearing the aforementioned in mind, the Batch of 2017 requests you with utmost humility to kindly issue a formal written statement addressing the Issues."

A statement issued by the Student Bar Association of the National Law School on India University (NLSIU), Bangalore states,

"... we stand in complete solidarity with the student body at RGNUL and wholeheartedly support their courage and decision. We support their sincere efforts to stand up against the regressive and capricious behaviour of their administration."

Another statement issued by the National Student Union (NSUI) Punjab states,

"We strongly condemn the authoritative behaviour of the authorities at RGNLU, Patiala. The mental harassment faced by the students, regarding the sexist comments made and the bad food quality at the hostel mess, it is very sad to know that an institution of such class is demeaning its students in such mannerIn these times of struggle, Students of every educational institution stands by them..."

The movement has further served to reiterate the need for nationalising NLUs by conferring the Institute of National Importance Tag (INI). In this regard, the NLU student consortium statement emphasises,

"Struggle of RGNUL students appears to have the same roots as that of many other struggles in NLUs over the last few years. The absence of a robust grievance redressal system in NLUs renders the students to seek extreme measures by putting their careers and academic interests at stake...

...The NLUs Students Consortium would like to recall the previously released statement supporting the call for the nationalisation and grant of Institutes of National Importance (INI) status to NLUs. This would ensure a centralization of administration and accountable systems across all the law schools in India, leading to uniform administrative regulations, academic standards and centralised funding. We implore for the same."

The Law Students Union, Panjab University and the National Student Union of India (NSUI) have also expressed their solidarity with the movement.

Talks with Vice Chancellor fail, Students to boycott Mid-Semester exams

Vice-Chancellor Dr Paramjit Jaswal met the students this afternoon for another round of talks.

However, the talks failed after the students were not given any concrete assurance that any of their grievances would be addressed. As a result, the students will be continuing with their agitation. The students are also planning to boycott the mid-semester examinations scheduled for tomorrow. A source told Bar & Bench that all students, save for the final year students will be taking part in the exam boycott.

For more updates follow the RGNUL Student Council twitter page here and the FreeRGNUL twitter page here.

Read the full Memorandum of grievances drafted by the students of RGNUL below:

RGNUL memorandum

Read the full statement of solidarity issued by the NLU student consortium below:

NLUs Students Consortium in solidarity with Students of RGNUL Patiala.

Read the full statement of solidarity issued by the SBA, NLSIU below:

RGNULNLS

Read the representation addressed by the RGNUL alumni below:

Letter of Solidarity_RGNUL Alumni Association_1

Read the statement of solidarity issued by the Law Students Union, Panjab University below:

LSU SSolidarity Notice

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