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Manish Sisodia May Think This Question In A Law Exam Is Communal In Nature, But I Disagree

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Don’t teach medical students about HIV, although it’s reality but taboo. Don’t teach students of history about Nazism, for they may turn into a power-obsessed maniac. Don’t teach students of psychiatry about depression, for they themselves may fall victim to the same. Lastly, don’t even think of teaching the students about the shortcomings of the present organisation of society, for their mindset may become prejudiced. Does logic seems to be in its place? Absolutely not. And it is far from being perceived as rational.

Just like any other question on a provision of the Indian Penal Code, the third semester end-term examination paper of Indian Penal Code which was conducted on December 7 2018 at GGS Indraprastha University, New Delhi, had the following question:

“Q.1. (a) Ahmed, a Muslim kills a cow in a market in the presence of Rohit Tushar, Manav and Rahul, who are Hindus. Has Ahmed committed any offence?”

Now, if you ask any law student, (s)he would say that the question is pertaining to the Sections 153-A and 295-A of the Indian Penal Code, which criminalizes “deliberate and malicious acts, intending to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs.”

The impugned question has a simple illustration which is to be analysed in the light of these two provisions i.e. Ss 153-A and 295-A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860. But, it has taken an unfortunate turn and has resulted into a political issue.

As reported by The Indian Express, the Delhi Deputy CM Manish Sisodia wrote the following note to the Higher Education Secretary on December 11, “It has been brought to my notice through media reports that a highly objectionable question was asked in the LLB third semester exam in the college, namely School Law at Narela, affiliated to GGSIPU. How could such a reprehensible question with a communal overtone be framed for an LLB exam? Secretary (Higher Education) to get the matter inquired into and status report be sent to the undersigned within five days.”

The minister terms the question as a “highly objectionable” and a “reprehensible” one. But, if you go on to analyse the same with logic that rests on rationality and reasoning, there is not an iota of academic incorrectness in this question.

It is reported, through various sources, that the reasons for such condemnation by the minister lies in the recent incident in Bulandshahr and the unfortunate lynching of 2015, but even if one goes by the thinking of the minister, then also can you expect a lawyer to do their job without knowledge of legal provisions pertaining to such incidents in order to appear before a court of law? Who shall conduct the prosecution of such incidents if the legal issues are not taught in the law schools out of fear of being politically incorrect? Moreover, does the minister really believe that law students, who supposedly are one of the most aware lot of students, frame their personal opinions depending on one question in an examination?

Interestingly, it was not the first time that such a question was asked in an examination conducted by the university. The IPC third semester paper in the year 2016 had the following question:

“Q.1. e : ‘X’ a Mohammedan kills a cow in an open place in the presence of 4-5 Hindus. What Offence he has committed?”

The question again was supposed to be answered in the light of the same provisions of the IPC i.e. 153-A and 295-A. But, there was no controversy created at that time. Moreover, this examination was chronologically closer to the unfortunate incident of 2015, but no one objected to it. In fact, Sisodia was on the same portfolio, but he didn’t even express his views, leave alone writing to the Higher Education Secretary.

Another thing that has followed the ‘un-intelligent’ action by the minister is regret expressed by the Registrar of the University. The Telegraph quotes him as saying, “We regret this question. It is, of course, communal in nature. The question stands deleted and no marks will be given for it, irrespective of whether a student has attempted it. The controller of examinations will issue an advisory to the examiners so that such things don’t happen in future.”

Why express regret? Regret that the students were made aware of the realities of society? Regret that the students were made to think of legal mechanisms available to curb such mishaps? Or regret that although we were academically correct, we missed out to be politically correct in the eyes of a few?

What can we possibly achieve by deleting the question? The issue is far from being about five marks in an examination. Aren’t we leaving an impression on young minds that we would bow not to academic correctness but to political incorrectness?

The legal fraternity, especially law students, have always been the exemplification of idealism and zeal for societal progress, so why keep them in a cocoon when the question of sensitive realities of society pops up?

Why should anyone stop students from pondering and deliberating upon realities of the world we live in, despite how uncomfortable it may be? As Justice Kurian Joseph said in his retirement speech, “Silence of the law-men is more dangerous to the society than the violence of laymen.”

Academia, in order to retain and enhance its glory, must stand firm for academic correctness rather than political incorrectness.

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