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Panjab University wants case withdrawn, but it’s easier said than done

UT police, whose 22 personnel were among the injured in April 11 clash on campus, appear in no mood to oblige; case can go on even against university’s wish

punjab Updated: May 25, 2017 23:38 IST
Shailee Dogra
Shailee Dogra
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh
Panjab University,case,students
Clash between students and cops near PU V-C office on Apr 11. (HT File Photo)

Having already backtracked on sedition charges, Panjab University has asked the Chandigarh police department to completely drop the case against students who had turned violent on April 11 while protesting against a fee hike. But the cops have something to say on that.

“We have received a letter from the PU authorities asking to drop the case against the students in wake of the decision of the university senate (on May 7). But we will let the law take its own course. As of now, there is no move to drop the case,” said Eish Singhal, senior superintendent of police (SSP), Chandigarh.

Of the 66 students named in the FIR, 52 were taken into custody and later got bail.

The decision to write to the police was taken during the senate meeting when members cornered PU authorities for failing to tackle the issue on its own and for slapping a case against students. The senators had even questioned the presence of police on campus.

Not only was the fee hike partially rolled back, but, bowing to the pressure by the senators and Students for Society (SFS), the group that had led the protest, vice-chancellor Arun Grover had announced on May 7 to withdraw the case.

However, the police department is in no mood to forget that 22 cops, including DSP (central) Ram Gopal, were injured in the violence when tear gas was fired and stones hurled.

  • March 26: PU senate approves fee hike for new admissions from 2017-18 session to tackle financial crunch
  • April 2: Protests by various student organisations demanding complete rollback started
  • April 11: During a protest mobilised by SFS, violence erupted; students arrested, got bail later in the week
  • May 7: PU in its senate meeting decided to take back the case, later writes to cops

The case is registered under sections 147 and 148 for rioting, 149 for unlawful assembly, 332 and 353 for assault on public servant, and 308 for attempt to commit culpable homicide, under the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Senior advocate AS Chahal, who earlier appeared for the students to get them bail, explained the technicality now, “Since the case is already registered, PU does not have a locus standi (legal position in the matter) as it’s a case ‘versus the State’. The police are well within their rights to present a challan and prosecute the accused legally.” However, he opined, “On humanitarian grounds, considering the future of the children, the police should drop file a closure report in the court. The students are not criminals, and were protesting for their rights when things went out of hand.”

V-C Grover said, “We are not pursuing the case. No one is above the law. Legal luminaries are of the opinion that procedures will take a few months. We have conveyed to the police the decision of the university senate.”

Initially, PU chief security officer Ashwani Kaul in his complaint accused the students of sedition, but that section was dropped on the intervention of senior police officers. Kaul later said his complaint was misinterpreted.

Also, first the authorities as well as the students blamed outsiders for the violence.

But investigations revealed that a number of supporters of the SFS were from the PU evening studies department had resorted to violence. SFS was the main party to mobilise students for the protest and most of the arrested students were from the party.

First Published: May 25, 2017 10:56 IST