By Aanchal Nigam and Simran Pavecha:
The academic discourse in India is going through a reformatory period, with increasing instances of colleges and universities becoming thriving grounds for revelations, courage and dissent. With students’ voices trying to break open the shackles of fear and divisive politics and bringing to light the nuanced notions of issues ranging from merit, attendance to sexual harassment. We are definitely changing.
The recent disaffiliation of Amity Law School, Delhi from GGSIPU will go down in history as a landmark precedent.
Sushant Rohilla, a 21-year-old student of Amity Law School, Delhi, committed suicide by hanging himself at his residence on August 10, 2016, three months after he was debarred from his sixth semester exams due to shortage of attendance. Amity Law School, affiliated to Govind Singh Indraprastha University, has a norm of 75% compulsory attendance to appear for exams. Sushant’s “Physical Attendance Status” was 43%, as furnished by the administration, in a press conference, on August 17 2016, which according to the “system” made him liable to be debarred.
According to his family, Sushant’s fractured leg was the reason behind his low attendance. The suicide note did not state the reason behind his drastic step. The interim report submitted before the Amity panel, last month, observed that the debarment happened because the college and faculty were following the rules and regulations. The tinge of irony arises from the interviews and statements given by the students at Amity, where they’ve mentioned how these “rules” were not clear and wasn’t properly communicated.
Sushant’s friend, Raghav Sharma, also a law student at Amity, had earlier written to the Chief Justice of India, demanding that Amity authorities be tried for aiding Sushant’s suicide. His letter stated how Sushant was “continuously harassed and mentally tortured by a particular teacher,” and the college authorities kept mum, despite being aware of the same. Apparently, Sushant’s admit card for appearing in the examinations had come to the law school from GGSIPU, but it never reached him. Such was the level of cruelty he was subjected to.
The final year LLB students then challenged Amity’s decision to debar the students for low attendance in the Delhi High Court on June 5, 2018. The ALS students challenged the college’s attendance norms in court, and a Bar Council of India (BCI) suo moto inspection found Amity Law School to be in non-compliance with the mandated 648 minimum hours, as against 151 lectures.
The law school ended the semester seven days before the deadline, because of which students lost out on marking their attendance. The students had paid the price for the non-adherence of rules by Amity. The case is still subjudice and listed for hearing on July 9, 2018.
The case caught fire because of the collective support of many students and institutions throughout the nation. The widespread support and protests resulted in GGSIPU disaffiliating Amity Law School, Delhi on June 9, 2018. The admissions for the next academic session of 2018-19 have been closed, and the law school won’t be participating in the counselling and admission process of GGSIPU.
The disaffiliation is allegedly a result of recent developments and student protests over the Sushant Rohilla case.
This massive, and slightly unexpected step, has given immense hope and courage to the students. Issues like attendance, uncooperative administrations, and increasing cases of sexual harassment are coming to light and the time has come for us to hack the conventional, orthodox ways and debate and discuss the credibility of parameters set for attendance, the composition of professionals who form administrations in colleges.
Colleges should be answerable for misleading students when they boast of great faculty and infrastructural benefits, and not providing them, and making the students suffer. Attendance is used as a bait and threat to compel students, which ends up affecting their careers, and, sometimes, their lives.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time when cases of grave injustice and harassment of students have been raised against the college authorities. In 2013, 230 commerce students – 75 each from the first, second and third year— of Narsee Monjee College had been debarred from appearing for their semester-end examinations for failing to fulfil the minimum attendance criterion.
In 2017, Babasaheb Bhimrao Ambedkar University (BBAU) had debarred 15 law students for poor attendance, as they followed the manually logged attendance instead of biometric attendance. DU’s law faculty had detained around 250 students out of the total 7,000 students on account of having lower than 70 per cent attendance in December, 2017.
The harassment students have to go through because of such incidents is inhumane and uncalled for. Dissent is often curbed by the voices of “degree nahi denge, toh future ka kya hoga phhir?” (If they don’t give you a degree, what will happen to your future?).
Rules and regulations are an integral part of educational institutions and are essential in its smooth and efficient functioning but letting these parameters have a “binding” value, instead of a “persuasive” value is losing the sight of the bigger picture and, hence, a sign to beware of.