St Stephen's student takes principal to court; faculty, alumni question magazine ban

  • Indra Shekhar Singh, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Apr 17, 2015 15:09 IST

A student of Delhi's premier St Stephen's college has moved the Delhi high court against the college and its principal Valson Thampu challenging his suspension and the ban on the online magazine's publication.

Devansh Mehta, editor and co-founder of the St Stephen's Weekly, was on April 15 suspended for 9 days after a one-man inquiry committee appointed by the college principal found him guilty of "breach of discipline".

The court will hear Mehta's petition, which was filed on Thursday, on Friday.

Mehta, a final-year philosophy student, was allegedly suspended for launching the online magazine without getting clearance from the college principal.

The college banned the e-zine started by Mehta and other students over an interview of the principal, which, he said, had not been cleared. The e-zine went live on March 7 and registered over 2,000 hits but was taken down on March 12.

In his petition, Mehta called the ban "arbitrary, illegal, malafide and shockingly unreasonable".

Mehta sought "quashing of the order banning/suspending publication of the St Stephen's Weekly, stay on the suspension order and restraining the principal from taking any further action against him".

Mehta has also requested that he be reconsidered for the Rai Saheb Banarsi Das Memorial Prize, for which he was earlier selected by the college but was dropped from the list in the wake of the controversy.

Students, faculty and the alumni of the college have questioned the principal's decision to ban the magazine and criticised him for stifling "student dissent".

In their petition to Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, students have requested him to refuse the invitation to attend the convocation ceremony on April 18.

The letter says that "every instance of student dissent has been stamped out using punitive measures, the explanations for which have been inadequate".

According to sources, Kejriwal has not seen the petition yet but will review the matter on Friday.

Thampu, meanwhile, has taken on Prof Vijay Tankha, head of the college's philosophy department, for "skipping the meeting with the principal" and for "sneaking the name of Mehta behind the back of the principal" to the college office.

Thampu maintains that the suspension is justified and said Mehta had failed to apologise and persisted in his defiant behaviour despite efforts made by Prof Sanjay Rao Ayde, who headed the one-member disciplinary committee, to solve the issue within the college.

A senior member of the faculty speaking to HT questioned the suspension and said, "If Mehta is being punished for publishing the magazine without Thampu's permission then all the four members should be suspended. But if the disciplinary action is due to Mehta speaking to the media, then the suspension is unconstitutional. There is no rule that restricts a member of college from talking to the media."

Prominent alumni have already spoken out against Thampu's decision.

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