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NLU D ‘perturbed’ over ‘inconvenience’ to CJI, after topper skips convocation to protest sex harass inquiry

SC may have washed its hands of allegations against CJI but NLU topper chooses to exercise right to protest inquiry
SC may have washed its hands of allegations against CJI but NLU topper chooses to exercise right to protest inquiry

NLU Delhi has said that the Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi was not due to award a medal to an NLU Delhi topper at its convocation last weekend, after a report in the Indian Express quoted the student declining to attend over reservations to receive the award from Gogoi, who had been accused of sexual harassment and of reacting to the charges badly.

NLU Delhi LLM topper Surbhi Karwa had told the Express:

Everything I learnt in the classroom put me in a moral quandary over the last few weeks on whether I should receive the award from CJI Gogoi. The institution he heads failed when sexual harassment allegations were made against him.

I am seeking answers for myself on the role lawyers must play in guarding Constitutional values, and that is something even the CJI mentioned in his speech.

However, she did agree to receive the topper’s medal in absentia.

The university has responded today with the following statement “issued by” its vice chancellor Ranbir Singh, denying that the CJI would have actually given a medal to her (though he would have awarded medals to others):

The news item appears to be based on incorrect facts and information.

As per the scheme of award finalised by the University, no medal was to be awarded to LL.M. topper by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India. Nor did the University ever make any such communication to any student including Ms. Surabhi [sic] Karwa. In fact the said topper was to receive the medal from Mr. Vijay Dev, Chief Secretary, Delhi NCT. The medals were also given by the other dignitaries present.

As per the programme, only two undergraduate students were to be awarded the medals by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India during the Convocation.

Karwa had also not attended the convocation rehearsal on 16 August to share her concerns, added NLU Delhi.

That said, the university’s statement does not change the substance or principle of Karwa’s stance or the fact of her decision not to attend the convocation in order to protest the charges against the CJI.

In addition, the CJI did give a speech at the convocation to NLU Delhi students, calling on students to defend the constitution and to “say no and a big no to anything and everything that appear to your mind to be morally and actually regressive”.

On a plain reading, the CJI’s speech itself would lend support Karwa’s right to protest by not attending.

Nevertheless, NLU Delhi is clearly worried about this upsetting the CJI (or potentially other invited dignitaries in future), noting in the statement that it was “highly perturbed over this instance as it has caused an unnecessary inconvenience to the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India”.

“The University intends to take up this matter with utmost sincerity and proposes to take up all necessary measures in this direction,” it added, somewhat cryptically and ominously.

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