HC makes JNU’s freedom square out of bound for protesting students
‘Freedom Square’, a popular protest site at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), will be inaccessible for students with the Delhi High Court on Thursday stating that peaceful protest in the university should be held but not within 100 meters of the administrative block.
The court also directed the city police to ensure that the vice chancellor of JNU and other officials are not stopped from entering or exiting the varsity’s administrative block by students protesting against a 2016 UGC notification, which changes the admission policy of the university.
Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva said any protest at the university should be held peacefully but not within 100 metres of the administrative block and ordered the Delhi Police to ensure compliance of the two directions by using its officers, if necessary.
The court, however, directed the police to sensitise its officers about the manner in which they have to deal with students, in case of any untoward incident.
Two parking spots, the stairs of the administrative building and the area around it, earned the name of ‘Freedom Square’ following a February 9 incident last year when alleged anti-national slogans were allegedly raised at a function for Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru. However, students claimed that they have always used the area to hold protests, whether it was the issue of Rohith Vemula, or fellowship cut-down by UGC or against hostel crunch.
In December last year, the university had installed iron grilles at the protest sites and had also set a distance limit for “democratic protests” by students. Students were told to stay 20 meters away from the administrative building while staging any protests, the university said in a notice.
JNU registrar Pramod Kumar said they had originally asked for a restriction order limiting protests within 200 meters of the administrative building. “The stairs and area nearby is part of the admin building. Students can protest at other sites such as the area behind Kamal complex or at Teflas where the JNUSU office is,” he said.
JJNU students’ union (JNUSU) president Mohit Pandey said, “We have the right to protest. These are attempts by the V-C to take away this right. We will fight the legal and political battle to get our rights.”
The court also issued notice to the Jawaharlal Nehru University Students Union (JNUSU) and sought presence of their office bearers on the next date to explain the reason for their agitation.
The court was of the view that “the issue pertains to a university and the relation between the university and students” and the problem should be resolved by dialogues and mediation and not by adjudication.
“I feel, the issue instead of being strictly adjudicated, should be resolved by the way of dialogue, mediation and counselling,” the judge said.
The students are protesting the recent amendments made in the JNU admission policy which capped the number of students per supervisor in M.Phil and Ph.D courses.
The JNU administration, which had come to court against the blocking of its administrative block by agitating students, said the “university will install CCTV cameras in and around the administrative building” to step up security.
The court directed JNU to preserve 30 days of footage of the cameras and to make it available to the local police, if required or demanded by them.