The Bombay high court on Friday came to the aid of a Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) student who was suspended for misbehaviour in the aftermath of the students’ unrest at the institute. The court allowed him to participate in a film shoot mandated as part of his diploma.
However, the bench of Justice VM Kanade and Justice Nutan Sardessai refused to stay the rustication order against the petitioner. They added that if the court ruled in favour of the institute at the time of final disposal of the case, the petitioner would not be eligible to receive his diploma.
The bench said its order did not condone the petitioner’s misconduct and that of other students who “hold the institute to ransom, indulge in indiscipline, and disrupt the curriculum at the institute.”
“An institute can function smoothly only if students maintain discipline. Tolerating such indiscipline will result in a deterioration of the institute’s standards. However, if a student shows any signs of reformation, and if the actions of the authorities have successfully delivered a suitable message to all students, then an exception can be made,” the bench said.
The observations came while the bench was hearing a plea filed by a final-year FTII student who was suspended in May. The petitioner and several other students had protested against the extension of tenure granted to a certain professor. According to FTII’s counsel, advocate Priyanka Telang, the petitioner went beyond the methods of protest employed by other students and sent “two abusive and demeaning emails to the FTII head and actor Tom Alter, as well as to other senior faculty members.”
A preliminary inquiry was held and the petitioner was expelled from the hostel. “He began sleeping on the verandah, refusing to leave, got into scuffles with security staff, broke computers, and damaged property,” Telang said. The institute the suspended him.
He approached the high court challenging his suspension and also sought interim relief by way of being allowed to participate in a film shoot, which begins on Saturday and will continue over the next month. He said participation in the shoot was necessary for students wishing to obtain a diploma.
Earlier that day, the bench had suggested that the petitioner apologise to Alter. However, Alter told Telang he would not change his mind regarding the suspension.
Telang said the decision was even-handed, and that not getting a diploma would not have very adverse effects on the petitioner’s career. She said, “Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Subhash Ghai had not completed their diplomas at FTII, but look at where they stand now.” She cited previous Supreme Court judgements that advised other courts against interfering with educational decisions.
The bench however, held that as the petitioner was in the last leg of his course, he must be granted a chance.