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100s of NLU, Nalsar, other law students, faculty, alumni sign statement supporting #JNU [UPDATE-1]

Nalsar Hyderabad and NLU Delhi have issued statements, signed by students and alumni, in solidarity with the students of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

Update: Another statement signed by more than 400 law school students and alumni is circulating. The list of signatories is here. Full text:

We, the undersigned, as current students, alumni and professors of law universities, stand in strong opposition to the recent events which have unfolded at JNU, especially those involving the arrest of the JNUSU President, among other disproportionate measures. We strongly disapprove of the free reign given to the police to question, detain and arrest any student or faculty member for voicing their opinions.

We believe that university spaces are forums to discuss, question and debate fundamental political issues from different perspectives. University campuses are, and should be, spaces where people can peacefully voice their opinions, raise questions and disagree with each other on issues which concern us all as a part of the polity. The only way to uphold the ethics and values of safe spaces on university campuses, is to counter through dialogue and debate, not state backed violence. What a university campus cannot be is a site for stifling dissent and opinions with the threat of violence and a state backed misuse of the Indian Penal Code especially that of provisions such as sedition which were earlier used against many of our freedom fighters, those we eulogize as defenders of our “national” identity.

We are concerned about the recent spate of incidents (including those that led to Rohith Vemula’s death at the University of Hyderabad) wherein students affiliated to certain political organisations, have repeatedly violated the safe spaces of universities, targeting those who voice opinions and stake claims that do not find favour with the ruling dispensation. We strongly urge that such actions be denounced and we are once again allowed to reclaim university spaces where counter-narratives that challenge the mainstream are respected, dialogue is nurtured and future leaders are born.

As law people, we also strongly condemn the action of certain lawyers who manhandled the students and faculty members of JNU present at the Patiala Court House premises on 15th February, 2016. We regret to see that the very courts of justice, to whom people look up to for upholding the rights of the ordinary citizen and acting as a fair arbitrator, have become battlegrounds for participants of the legal system to violently express their bias and prejudices.

We demand that the JNU campus be restored to normalcy and the police be withdrawn from all parts of the campus. We demand that the JNUSU President, Kanhaiya Kumar be released immediately and all charges be dropped against him.


“In light of the events of past few days on the JNU campus and at the Patiala House Court premises, we would like to send out a public statement. 

I would like to clarify that the statement is issued in personal capacities of all those who have signed it and does not represent the views of the entire student community, Student Bar Council and the college administration.”

The statement, signed by 263 students and 13 faculty members, is as follows:

“We, the undersigned students and teachers of NALSAR University of Law, Hyderabad strongly condemn the police presence, raids and arrests in the JNU campus and the attack on JNU students, teachers and media persons at the Patiala House Court premises.
In a time when public discourse in this country has descended to the level of shouting matches on prime time television, universities are one of the last bastions of free dialogue and
debate. Events like that on February 9th, 2016 in JNU provide for a much needed platform to further intellectual discourse. Even if the slogans shouted at the event were in bad taste or offensive to certain sections of the society, they are still protected by the freedom of speech as guaranteed under Article 19 of the Indian Constitution. The law of sedition as it has been interpreted by the Indian Supreme Court only applies to speech which is an incitement to violence or public disorder and thus, does not apply to the present factual scenario.
The law of sedition is a vestige of the colonial legacy and has a history of being used to suppress views which have been unfavourable of the establishment. Use of such an archaic law to suppress ideas against the state is uncalled for and highly condemnable. We therefore, stand in solidarity with JNU Student's Union President Kanhaiya Kumar and other students who have been charged with sedition by the government. We demand that the government immediately withdraw the charges against the students of JNU and stop suppressing dissenting voices by labelling them as anti-national.
-Dated February 16th, 2016Students of Nalsar, University of Law, Hyderabad”


NLU Delhi

“There is certainly a variety of opinion amongst us who have signed the statement regarding the incident that sparked these events. However, all of us agree that the situation as it stands must be condemned. University campuses are spaces where we should be able to express our opinions without the fear of persecution, and the arrest of JNU students and presence of police on the JNU campus is something to be opposed.

Some of the alumni have issued a statement in solidarity with the students of JNU and condemning the current situation in JNU and the incidents which took place in Patiala House.”

The statement, signed by 52 persons from NLU Delhi, is as follows:

“In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

We, former students of National Law University, Delhi, choose to speak out in solidarity with the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in such times, in the interest of upholding and protecting the constitutional values we were taught to cherish during our years in University. Amongst us, one would find a variety of opinions on issues of legal and constitutional importance including capital punishment, the execution of Afzal Guru, and the issues surrounding Jammu & Kashmir. Despite the multiplicity of our views, we believe that every citizen and student has the right to voice their opinions, however unpalatable they may seem, without the fear of persecution.  The right to free speech and expression is guaranteed under our constitution, and is essential to democracy itself. Further, we believe that universities play a special role in constitutional democracies as incubators for new ideas that challenge established norms and present just solutions to persisting problems. Free space for dialogue, debate and dissent becomes vital on university campuses for them to live up to their essential role.

We are deeply concerned about the events that have unfolded in JNU and strongly condemn the use of criminal sanction and police forces to suppress the voices of students in JNU. The use of the police to create an atmosphere of apprehension and fear on campuses will destroy the space for ideas that are undesirable for established forces, ideas that question the status quo and push progressive goals. This strikes at the very heart of our universities. The carte blanche given to the police by the administrative authorities of JNU to “do as they deem fit” on the JNU campus is unacceptable and must be revoked immediately.

A constitutional bench of the Supreme Court of India in Kedar Nath v. State of Bihar (1962) has held that “criticism of public measures or comment on Government action, however strongly worded, would be within reasonable limits and would be consistent with the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression.” It is clear that provisions that criminalise sedition cannot be used to curb dissent and such use cannot be condoned. We strongly condemn the arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar, President of the JNU Student Union on charges of sedition.

As young lawyers, we are also deeply shocked to hear that members of the public, including some lawyers, used physical force against students and teachers of JNU and media personnel in the district court at Patiala House, Delhi on 15 February, 2016. In India, lawyers have upheld a strong tradition of being leaders of movements towards political and social progress, and such behaviour is reprehensible and a matter of deep shame for the legal community.

Therefore, we strongly oppose the use of police force against the JNU students for exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of speech and expression. We believe that the imposition of sedition charges amounts to abuse of law and demand for the immediate release of Kanhaiya Kumar, President of the JNU Student Union.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this statement only belong to those who have endorsed it, and cannot be ascribed to National Law University, Delhi, its administration or staff or to any member of National Law University, Delhi who has not signed the statement. “

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