No ban on protests in JNU: Vice-chancellor after objections raised over manual | Latest News Delhi - Hindustan Times
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No ban on protests in JNU: Vice-chancellor after objections raised over manual stating 20,000 fine on strikes

Dec 13, 2023 04:15 AM IST

Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit on Tuesday reiterated that all rules mentioned in the Chief Proctor Office manual were already in place

A day after students of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) raised objections over the new chief proctor’s office (CPO) manual released by the varsity, vice-chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit on Tuesday reiterated that all rules mentioned in the manual were already in place, and that the university has not increased slabs of fine in any case.

JNU vice-chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit rejected reports that a new JNU manual has restricted protests on the University campus. (HT Photo)
JNU vice-chancellor Santishree Dhulipudi Pandit rejected reports that a new JNU manual has restricted protests on the University campus. (HT Photo)

Under the new manual released last month, students can be penalised 20,000 for staging a dharna, holding a hunger strike, and protesting around the residence of a university official or within the 100-meter radius of any academic and administrative complex. Both students and teachers raised concerns over diminishing democratic space on the campus.

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In an interview with HT, Pandit said that the university has not banned protests on campus as freedom of speech and expression is guaranteed in the Constitution of India. She said the proctor’s manual has been in place since 1969, and the university has not changed it.

Edited excerpts:

Why has JNU come up with a new manual? Are the fines mentioned in it being introduced to clamp down on protests or prevent indiscipline?

Ever since I took charge as the vice-chancellor of JNU in February 2022, these rules have been in place. In fact, they have been in place for over 10 years. These rules were not made by the university. The Delhi high court in the past gave certain orders including banning protests within 100 meters of the administrative block. These rules were introduced over the years. There were four ongoing cases in the Delhi court recently, and the court asked the university to put the rules in writing and a legalised manner. Therefore, this manual was prepared by the CPO which is responsible for maintaining rules, regulations, and discipline in the university.

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Why didn’t the authorities raise this earlier?

The proctor manual has been in place since 1969. However, it was not available in the public domain. Now, we have put it in the public domain to ensure transparency, because we work in a very democratic way. There were fines and rustications even at the time when I was a student at JNU. So, there is nothing new in this.

Wasn’t the new manual shared with teachers or students before it was released?

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, no single letter has been received by the administration or VC office from students or staff asking to withdraw the manual.

Does this mean the university will impose these fines on students if they participate in protests on campus?

No, 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 last regime on many students between 2016 and 2022 and closed their cases considering their futures.

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JNU has not put a blanket ban on protests as long as students don’t flout rules. Freedom of speech and expression is the right guaranteed to everyone by the Indian Constitution and JNU will not go against it.

On what basis will these fines be imposed?

We only impose fines on those caught drinking and consuming drugs at the campus, found guilty of misbehaving with women, delivering hate speech, or involved in gross misbehavior with university officials, not allowing them to perform their duty, and discrimination against any community. There is also a due process for imposing fines.

When you say ‘drinking’, do you mean drinking publicly?

Yes. It is not allowed on campus. It is part of the university rules they have signed up for.

The manual also mentions that a fine of 6,000 would be imposed for partying on campus without permission from the administration. Does this mean students cannot party?

Of course, they can but they should maintain discipline. There have been freshers’ parties on campus when drugs and alcohol were consumed. There was violence reported at a birthday party at a hostel a few months ago. So, we are only asking them to take permission because they should take responsibility. We are not against parties. But they cannot be allowed without permission. It is our duty to maintain discipline and ensure the safety of students.

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