Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has introduced stringent rules in its revised CPO manual, prohibiting demonstrations near the academic and administrative complexes. Students flouting these regulations will face penalties ranging from hefty fines to expulsion.
On 24 November, the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) Executive Council approved a 15-page Chief Proctor Office (CPO) manual containing the “discipline and proper conduct rules”. The manual stated that JNU students will now be fined Rs. 20,000 if they participate in a hunger strike, dharna or any other form of protest within 100 meters of any academic and administrative complex. Any act to incite intolerance towards a religion, caste or community or the printing, circulation or pasting of posters carrying derogatory religious, communal, casteist or “anti-national remarks” may also attract a penalty of Rs.10,000. This development follows an incident the University witnessed in October, where an “anti-national” slogan was scribbled on the University’s School of Languages building wall and the administration had later announced to set up a committee to investigate the repeated nature of such incidents in campus. Earlier, protests within 100 meters of the administrative blocks, which house the offices of the Vice-Chancellor, the registrar, and proctors among others, were prohibited as per a High Court order.
The manual has listed 28 types of misconduct including blockades, gambling, unauthorized occupation of hostel rooms, use of abusive and derogatory language and committing forgery. If a student is found involved in a hunger strike, dharna, ‘group bargaining’ and any other form of protest or is found blocking the entrance or exit of any of the complexes, they will be either imposed a fine of Rs.20,000 , evicted from the hostel for 2 months or be rusticated and declared out of bounds for up to 2 months. All forms of coercion such as gheraos and sit-ins have also come on the banned list. Arranging events such as freshers’ welcome parties, farewells, or DJ events on the campus without obtaining prior permission may also attract a fine of Rs. 6,000. If a student is found guilty of being engaged in any of the prohibited activities and is given a punishment, they will not be eligible to register for the semester and won’t receive a “no-dues” certificate until the imposed fine is paid in full. In addition to posting the punishment on the official website, the administration will also send a copy of it to the student’s parents or guardian. If the student does not show up for the proctorial enquiry, the committee will assume that the complaint was filed with a malafide intention, and the student might be required to complete community service at JNU. A complainant may also be rusticated from the University for making any false allegations against any student. Additionally, the University will no longer permit cross-examination between the complainant and the defendant, which was an important rule of proctorial enquiry earlier. A student who has received 5 or more punishments during the duration of their study shall be expelled from the University, the manual noted.
The foreword to the manual by Chief Proctor N. Janardhana Raju emphasized the strong need to reassess the current disciplinary regulations of the Office of the Chief Proctor as there were “no substantially approved rules and regulations on proper conduct and discipline of students by the Executive Council of JNU in vogue”. According to the manual, in the event that a dispute arises about the interpretation of any of these guidelines, the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit or the appropriate authorities will have the last say. They will also have the power to waive, change or uphold the punishment if deemed fit. The university administration asserts that the new rules are important for maintaining academic and administrative order and preventing any disruptions. They argue that the designated protest areas within the campus are sufficient for expressing student concerns.
Responding to the uproar against the new regulations, VC Pandit, reportedly told the Indian Express that these rules have been fine-tuned on the directions of the Delhi High Court. (Source: CNBC-TV18)
This is not old not new. Passed unanimously by the EC last month as the manual had to be made legally sound. The fines are on indiscipline of drinking, drugs and misbehavior in hostels and towards women. The proctor’s office since 1969 has been taking action, imposing fines and rustications.
– JNU VC reportedly told the PTI.
During her discussion with the Hindustan Times, she highlighted that the University has not banned protests on campus as freedom of speech is a Constitutional right, emphasizing that fines and rustications existed even during her student years at JNU. The recent move to make it public was undertaken to ensure transparency, aligning with their democratic functioning.
I have never imposed a fine on any student just because he or she participated in a protest on campus. The students even protested at my house over some water issue at a hostel. But I did not impose a fine on anyone for it. I have forgiven fines imposed by the latest regime on many students between 2016 and 2022 and closed their cases considering their futures.
– she told the Hindustan Times.
Talking about how the recent approval by the Executive Council (EC) was aimed at ensuring the manual’s legal validity, she clarified that fines are imposed for issues related to indiscipline and that no slabs have been raised.
The manual was passed by the Executive Council of the University, which also has representatives from the faculty. The administration circulated the manual among all EC members on November 1, and it was unanimously passed by the Council during a meeting on November 24. Nobody raised objections over anything because there was nothing new in it, and no slabs were raised. We only put it in a legal language and got it passed legally. Till today (December 13), no single letter has been received by the administration or VC office from students or staff asking to withdraw the manual.
– JNU VC told the media.
On December 12, a day after the University faced flak over its newly released stringent measures, an official clarified that protests have not been banned and are allowed at designated areas.
We have not changed anything. These rules were already there in place. We have just introduced a few other regulations to ensure no disruption is caused to the academic process. Students still have the democratic right to protest at designated places.
– an official from the University told PTI.
Reacting to the revised manual, the JNU Students’ Union (JNUSU) termed it an attempt by the administration to “stifle dissent” on the campus and alleged that the Proctor’s Office is being used to carry out “political vendetta against student activists and representatives raising important student community issues”. Demanding its immediate withdrawal, the JNUSU added that the manual lacked clarity on several crucial aspects, leaving room for misinterpretation and arbitrary implementation.
The stringent measures outlined in the manual are aimed at stifling the vibrant campus culture that has defined JNU for decades. Such excessive regulations are intended to discourage open discussions, dissent, and intellectual exploration, which are fundamental to the spirit of our university. Such ambiguous rules can lead to unfair and discriminatory practices, jeopardizing the rights of students
– JNUSU in a statement.
Student bodies at the University have also condemned the move saying that it snatches away the democratic rights of students to register dissent.
Who will decide what is harming someone’s moral sentiment and what is not? How can my peaceful protest, which is against fee hikes or injustice, be considered moral turpitude? Additionally many students in JNU are below the poverty line – so how do they expect these students to pay such high fines?
– said a student at JNU as reported by CNBC-TV18
Nine months ago, in February 2023, the University had issued a notification stating that the students can be imposed with a penalty of Rs. 20,000 for holding dharnas and face admission cancellation or a fine upto Rs. 30,000 for resorting to violence in the University. However, following its criticism, the notification was reportedly withdrawn within a week.
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