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HNLU four-year battle winds down, students return to new campus

Hidayatullah National Law University Raipur (HNLU) students returned for classes today to their new 70-acre campus, ending four years of strife with university officials that included protests, agitation and hunger strikes.

HNLU Student Bar Association representative Chandrashekhar A Chakalabbi said that students were happy with the allocation of a new campus.

However, he added that there was only "partial satisfaction" and an expectation remained that faculty members who had left HNLU during the protests would be reinstated.

HNLU's vice chancellor M.K Shrivastav said that the main bone of contention was the provision of infrastructure facilities and a new campus.

This had now been resolved after moving into a new campus that cost Rs 60 crore and was better than the campus of the National Law School of India University Bangalore (NLSIU).

Trouble first brewed at HNLU in 2005 after a complaint was made to the vice chancellor Shrivastava about the campus' deteriorating infrastructure.

Chandrashekhar said that there was "not enough security at the hostel, the food quality had gone down and much was left to be desired with respect to enhancement of academic standards".

He added: "Over a period of time 27 faculty members left including 12 to 15 senior professors. That's when the Student Bar Association decided to take matters into their own hands, demanding management control and diversion of funds to improve quality."

Students decided to go on strike on 9 March 2009 after the deadlock of a meeting of HNLU's executive council, which provides independent oversight.

The vice chancellor issued a closure of the university in response and students decided to continue their protest on campus.

"The situation became worse with no electricity, water, food and transportation at the university premises during the strike period," said Chandrashekhar.

Justice S.K. Agnihotri of Chattisgarh High Court, who is a member of HNLU's executive council, intervened and after his mediation the Chief Justice of India directed the Chattisgarh High Court Chief Justice Rajeev Gupta to look into the matter.

The students called off their strike on 22 March 2009 and returned to finish their exams and semester.

Less than three weeks later on 9 April, 319 HNLU students voted to go on hunger strike (pictured) after a failed attempt to resolve the dispute at a meeting between students and the Chattisgarh High Court Chief Justice.

On 13 April, the police arrested a number of hunger striking HNLU students for allegedly rioting and damaging university property. Chandrashekhar said that first information reports (FIRs) were filed against 150 students on behalf of the university.

On the evening of the same day the Chief Justice of India ordered the constitution of an inspection committee to examine the events.

The inspection committee of Justice Agnihotri and two academics submitted its report on 4 August 2009.

Students and HNLU are currently awaiting the final verdict from the Chief Justice of India on the report.

HNLU vice chancellor Shrivastava told Legally India: "The inspection Committee has not indicted or found guilty any member of the university.

"The honorable Chief Justice of India, who is a visitor at [HNLU] is also likely to support the university's stance. 500 certified copies of the inspection committee report have been distributed to those concerned, but it is not meant for the public."

He added that classes were resuming and that the unrest had been caused by a few student agitators.

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