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NLSIU dodges RTI details on charges of exam leak, ‘retro’ grading, Sid Chauhan dismissal

NLSIU Bangalore’s administration side-stepped Right to Information (RTI) requests seeking transparency in its student-grading system, information on measures taken to curb cheating in exams, and the reasons for the dismissal of former visiting faculty Sidharth Chauhan.

At the behest of NLSIU alumnus Prashant Reddy, NUJS Kolkata 2013 graduate Sai Vinod filed RTIs at the law school last month for details on the rate and manner in which NLSIU students who failed certain papers, allegedly passed after re-evaluation. He also filed an RTI asking for the factors playing a role in Chauhan’s dismissal.

Vinod also asked whether administrative action was taken to investigate faculty member Shreya Rao’s allegations regarding the misuse of the re-evaluation procedure and specific allegations of cheating during exams.

However, NLSIU’s Central Public Information Officer (CPIO) and officiating registrar K Ashwatha Reddy’s replies to the RTIs shed little light on the queries.

Inflated grades? Self-explanatory


In 2009 NLSIU had adopted a re-evaluation procedure in response to demands of the student body, which comprised of a large number of students repeatedly failing certain subjects. It was felt at the time that some teachers were being unduly harsh in their evaluation of exam papers.

Chauhan, who has since joined Nalsar Hyderabad as an assistant professor, commented via email to Legally India that re-evaluation had been devised as an exception rather than the norm. “Over the last four academic years (i.e. July 2009-present), we have heard of several instances where the present vice chancellor has literally changed hundreds of grades awarded in numerous subjects.

“In most of these cases, students who have failed subjects by considerable margins have been given passing grades, simply by invoking this particular regulation that provides for re-evaluation, despite course teachers repeatedly objecting to such untrammelled use of the rule. Not only are such re-evaluations completely arbitrary and unfair to hardworking students, it also undermines the morale amongst the teachers who are now second-guessed.”

“Normally, the re-evaluations are done en-masse, supposedly by outside faculty, and the results are released in the form of notifications,” he added. Legally India has seen a copy of one such notification from 27 February 2013.

Vinod’s RTI asked for the total number of re-evaluation notifications issued at the law school, the total number of students who’ve had their grades changed, the number of requests that were declined and the details of the re-evaluators.

However, NLSIU’s response stated:

“No requirement for Notification under Regulation V(7) of the Academic year and Examination Regulations… Vice-chancellor did not change any grade. The names of the evaluators cannot be given as it is strictly confidential.”

The response added that no requests for re-evaluation had been denied and, referring to the above “self-explanatory” response, copies of notifications could not be supplied.

In addition, the response stated that 38 faculty meetings were held in the current VC’s Prof Venkat Rao’s tenure, which began on 11 May 2009.

Chauhan, who had lamented the lack of faculty meetings at the law school, as previously reported, commented: “Even if 38 meetings have actually been held over the past four academic years, it demonstrates a marked decline from the previous practice at the institution. Under the previous Vice-Chancellors, a meeting of the entire faculty would usually be held every week during the instructional periods.”

No evaluation & leaked exams? ‘Action taken’


NLSIU faculty Shreya Rao had written to NLSIU VC Venkata Rao on 3 May 2013. [Read full letter here (opens in new window)]

“On September 19, 2012, I had written to you … [about] the unusual levels of disinterest within the batch, which I was informed was on account of the confidence the students had that they would be able to approach you to have their exam papers favourably re-evaluated. I requested the support of the institution in ensuring that the students do not take the easy way out and specified that I would be happy to defend my evaluation for each paper if required […]”

“My second email was dated January 15, 2013 and was in relation to three repeat exam papers which were verbatim copies of each other. […] I requested you to look into whether the paper was leaked prior to the exam or whether there was a failure at the invigilator’s level.”

The CPIO’s response to Vinod’s RTI stated that the “matter has been referred to under-graduate council for necessary action. A committee has been constituted and action has been taken”. In response to asking what disciplinary action was being “contemplated”, the CPIO re-stated that “action has been taken based on the Committee’s resolutions”.

Chauhan ‘not dismissed’

RTI responses states Chauhan was not dismissed (click to enlarge)
RTI responses states Chauhan was not dismissed (click to enlarge)

On 1 February Legally India first reported that Chauhan had been dismissed the day before from his visiting faculty position at NLSIU – little over a month after he wrote an open email to the VC criticising his non-consultative manner of imposing a 9pm ban on opening the law school gates.

Chauhan's notice letter (click to enlarge)
Chauhan's notice letter (click to enlarge)

On 1 July the law school replied to Vinod’s RTI asking why Chauhan was dismissed, stating: “Mr Sidharth Chauhan was not dismissed from his position as visiting faculty.” An opportunity for Chauhan to have been heard before termination of his contract, “does not arise”, according to the response (see image, left).

However, a later response stated that “the executive council authorised the vice chancellor to take necessary action [with respect to Chauhan]. The other information sought is confidential”. Similarly, copies of Chauhan’s performance evaluations were a “confidential document”.

On 31 January Chauhan had been sent one-month’s notice of termination of his contractual employment, which was signed by NLSIU’s registrar (see copy, right). 

Grounds for appeal?

Since the RTI appellate authority at NLSIU is the VC himself, and most questions in the RTIs are in respect of the VC’s decisions, Vinod will ask the VC to nominate a senior faculty member or an executive council member at the law school to act as the RTI appellate authority.

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