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HNLU students talks with new ministry VC fruitful, for now • 6 other NLUs unite in support vs bad admins

NLUs unite behind HNLU students
NLUs unite behind HNLU students

Student bar associations (SBAs) and similar bodies from NLSIU Bangalore, NUJS Kolkata, Nalsar Hyderabad, NLU Delhi, NLU Jodhpur and NLIU Bhopal have made a joint statement in support of the protesting students of HNLU Raipur and other national law schools to “stand up against the arbitrary and regressive behaviour of their administrations”.

The statement was made as HNLU students yesterday extracted significant oral concessions from the new acting vice chancellor, Ravi Shankar Sharma, the Chhattisgarh state’s law department principal secretary.

Sharma had been appointed following the Chhattisgarh high court’s judgment that the extension of the incumbent vice chancellor, Sukh Pal Singh, had been made illegally four years ago.

According to a statement by HNLU students, they had a fruitful meeting with Sharma yesterday, in which Sharma orally agreed to a number of the demands they had made. Although students said they would resume attending classes, they would continue the silent and peaceful protests until their demands had been acceded to by the acting administration in writing (see fuller list of demands and concessions below).

“A commendable amount of assurance was provided by the Honorable Vice Chancellor in regards with all the demands that were discussed in the little time provided. Assurance was also given that a meeting with the students shall be reconvened within two days. Now seems like a little assuring time after two absolute sleepless nights, with little food one could get chance to have, and the unsurmountable exasperation and hardship the HNLU student community has gone through,” said the HNLU students in their statement.

“The students reiterated that though they have accepted to resume classes but they continue to stand in silent protest since apart from the assurances and one absolute accepted demand, the protest hasn’t reached its conclusion. The students say that the protest has merely changed form and not stopped or paused. The students will be out after classes, in mark of the protests and occupy the whole campus even at night, in the open.”

6 NLUs united in ‘statement of solidarity’

Meanwhile, the six NLU student bodies, which included formally constituted SBAs (and at colleges without SBAs, a student welfare committee, NLIU Bhopal’s first unofficial SBA pending formal recognition, and a student acting as a student representative), said in their statement:

The dispiriting and intimidating events which have transpired at Hidayatullah National Law University (HNLU), Raipur over the past few days are exasperating not only for the student community of HNLU but also for the legal fraternity across all the National Law Universities (NLUs)

We empathize with the students of HNLU and their struggle against the capricious actions of their administration. It is agonizing to witness the whimsical actions of the administration in imposing unreasonable campus and library curfews, the absolute absence of transparency and accountability and the illegitimate extension of the Vice Chancellor’s tenure, the illegality of which has been affirmed by the Hon’ble High Court of Chhattisgarh. While students, in pursuance of their academic integrity, have decided to resume their classes after meeting the newly appointed interim VC, their protestation has not been met with any concrete assurances as a result of which the protestation continues with polite disobedience of the curfews and active demonstrations.

We also wish to take this opportunity to extend our solidarity to the students of all the other NLUs who are confronting similar arbitrary administrative issues in terms of their academic regulations. The demands raised by the students of HNLU pertain to common administrative problems tormenting the NLUs at large. Till date,

student bodies of almost ten NLUs have come down in protests against their respective administrations.

Given these set of events, the student bodies of NLSIU, NALSAR and NUJS would like to recall and emphasize their previously released statement calling 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 centralized funding. We implore for the same, yet again.

We also reiterate the founding idea of National Law Universities which were created as ‘islands of legal excellence’ to build a generation of ‘social engineers’. However, in the absence of efficient administration coupled with a lack of systematic accountability forces, students in most of the NLUs are burdened with the responsibility to initiate basic reforms and maintain constant vigil over administrative decisions. This fight for minimum standards and a right to decent education leaves the students too drained and disillusioned to be of any use to the society.

Therefore, we the students of NALSAR, NLSIU, NUJS, NLUD, NLUJ and NLIU stand in complete solidarity with our counterparts at HNLU and wholeheartedly support the courageous stand taken by them. We respect their sincere and valiant efforts to stand up against the arbitrary and regressive behaviour of their administrations.

HNLU student grievances and new VC’s tentative acceptances

The grievances agreed to by Sharma, according to the students, included:

  • “unreasonable cases of show-cause being issued by the administration in the past without any rationale”.
  • extended hostel timings, guards on campus after 10:30pm.
  • library access beyond 10pm, with an aim to open the library 24 hours a day.
  • unavailability of food after 10:30 pm.
  • appointment of hostel wardens “who are not serving in the capacity of a faculty member”.
  • appointing a permanent registrar, recruitment officer and recruitment-cell (to which, according to the students, Sharma said “that he thanks the students in sticking to the necessary demands”).
  • constitution of a Review Commission, in line with the HNLU Adhiniyam Act, 2003 (Sharma reportedly telling students that it would be constituted “soon”).
  • institution of a faculty feedback mechanism (“implementation was assured” by Sharma, students said).
  • establishing six centres of excellence, as had been notified on HNLU’s website but never implemented (Sharma reportedly said that work would proceed on this).
  • publishing minutes of Executive Council and Academic Council meetings publicly on HNLU’s website, in accordance with UGC guidelines, as well as publishing financial activities and budgetary investment, which Sharma assented to, according to students.
  • further deliberation with the student body surrounding repeat paper rules.
  • potentially appointing new service providers on campus, including mess, cafeteria and canteen, though Sharma said this would be contingent on existing contractual obligations, apparently suggesting a student-run mess as an alternative.
  • removing the controller of examination, which Sharma said could be done only after deliberation with the Academic Council,
  • dealing with sexual harassment cases against faculty members in accordance with the Vishakha guidelines.

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