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HNLU students to strike again, vote no confidence in reinstated VC • SC stayed HC order that VC term was illegal

HNLU Raipur students have passed a motion of no confidence and vowed to go on strike again to protest against vice chancellor (VC) Sukh Pal Singh, who has been reinstated after removal from the post has been stayed by the Supreme Court pending the fuller appeal.

The Supreme Court’s stay, which was not entirely unexpected, was nevertheless a blow to students who had held promising talks with a new interim VC in late August for reform at HNLU.

One student told us: “The protest is going to be silent and non-violent as before. We only have one demand, resignation of Dr. Singh.”

Singh did not respond to our request for comment earlier today.

However, on 20 September 2018, a Supreme Court bench of justices AK Sikri and Ashok Bhushan stayed the high court judgment until further notice, ordering parties to be notified of the appeal within four weeks.

Yesterday, the HNLU registrar, on instructions of the university’s chancellor, notified that Singh should resume the office again (see below).

Sukh Pal Singh back
Sukh Pal Singh back

In response, the HNLU Student Bar Association (SBA), however, sent a letter to their chancellor, informing him that they had “lost faith in the incompetent administration of Dr Sukh Pal Singh and his style of arbitrary and discriminatory decision making”.

The letter said students were “skeptical of him being reinstated to the office”, for a number of reasons, including allegedly:

  • allegations of financial irregularity at HNLU,
  • inaction on allegations of sexual harassment,
  • lack of transparency,
  • suppressing the interests of the students and student body,
  • arbitrary hiring and firing of faculty,
  • centralisation of administrative power,
  • maladministration.

Singh’s term as VC had been suspended after the Chhattisgarh high court had held that the extension of his term as VC in 2014 had been illegal.

Students then went on a strike that drew the attention of national media and resulted in the state government also taking an interest.

But irrespective of whether Singh now has the technical legal right to return, pending his appeal, students alleged:

Over the last few weeks many positive changes have been made by the administration under the interim Vice-Chancellor, Mr. R.S. Sharma. While some demands of the students are still under consideration, it is important to realize that Mr. Sharma has done what Dr. Singh could not do for more than seven years.

While the legality of his tenure is discussed in the Supreme Court of India, we believe that his incompetence is sufficient ground for him to vacate Office of the Vice Chancellor. Our lived experience show how several of us have been victims of his administration’s blatant casteism and continued inaction against sexual harassment. The hallmarks of Dr. Singh’s tenure have been the stagnation and regression of the academic culture, evasiveness and shirking of responsibility, destruction of all meaningful engagement with stakeholders and the deliberate suppression of their voices. His indifference towards the institution has led to a breakdown of trust between the students and the administration.

Read HNLU students motion of no confidence (PDF)

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