In this regard, a press note issued on Friday states,
“It has been wrongly alleged that the toilets were locked. Only Administrative and Academic Blocks were closed as per daily routine after the office hours. All the toilers of all hostels were and are open.
It has been wrongly alleged that students have been forced to vacated hostels and that no food was served to them. Food was and is being served in the hostels to the students who have still not vacated. No forcible eviction has been done.”
The University statement also emphasises that there has been no fee hike and that the fee structure of the University is in strict accordance with the details mentioned in the prospectus. The administration has also detailed the infrastructure stated to be available at the University, in response to grievances cited by the students over the lack of basic amenities. Further, the statement adds,
“The University has been able to provide additional infrastructure to students in the last nine months and is engaged in making best endeavours with government support and a positive attitude.”
Earlier, while speaking to Bar & Bench, Vice Chancellor Nishitha Jaswal had cited financial constraints as the reason for not being able to accede to the student demands for further improving amenities. Whereas the state government is expected to provide funds for HPNLU, Prof Jaswal said no financial grants have been given aside from initial funds for the construction of administrative block, the academic block, and one hostel, following the intervention of the University Chancellor.
A day after the administration’s press note was released, the students of HPNLU responded, objecting to several claims made by the University.
On a general note, the students deny the University’s claims concerning the provision of various basic necessities on campus. As per the students, WiFi and library facilities are still lacking, water supply is erratic and sanitation issues prevail in bathrooms and classrooms. In response to the University’s denial of having locked washrooms or having forced the eviction of students, it is stated,
“The University also issued that the washrooms were locked as per the routine and the washrooms in the hostels we still as accessible. However, the students question ‘this routine’ where the washrooms were accessible on the first two days of the protest but not on the third and again on the fourth on the realisation that the same was in violation of basic human rights. The hostels are at least 15 minutes away from the campus and the students, who are not allowed to do so otherwise, were expected to walk back in the dark in a “panther prone” zone.”
Further, the student statement also notes,
“There was no comment on the uprooting of water purifiers, which the students say is not a part of the routine.”
Objection has also been registered to the University’s claims concerning the efficacy and propriety of student committees, proximate medical facilities, hostel wardens and the attendance rules followed. As for the concerns of financial restraints impeding the development of infrastructure at HPNLU, the students have stated,
“The University also bemoaned lack of funds. Almost 400 students pay a fee of around 2.5 lakh rupees and they also get state funding. The students question where these funds and fees go. The additional infrastructure that the University has claimed to give to the students lacks many basic facilities like pegs, hooks, latches and so on.”
The note further states,
“After cracking a National level exam with hard work and paying a hefty amount of fees the students are forced to demand their basic rights which are blatantly being denied and false claims regarding provision of such facilities are being made. The students only want their rights to be fulfilled and demand what an ordinary student would expect from an institution of such repute as a National Law University.”
A more detailed press release also raises a number of “issues left unaddressed” by the University in its Friday statement. These issues include the creation of a democratically elected student body, transparency in administrative functioning, the alleged negligence on the past of the administration resulting in the denial of state scholarships, teaching reforms, internship and placement systems etc.
The lack of basic amenities at the University had prompted the students of HPNLU to commence protests six months ago. At that time, the protest was called off temporarily, with the student body making it clear that it would resume the protests if the issues raised are not addressed.
Last Tuesday, the students took to resuming their protest over the slow administrative response to their concerns. Apart from registering their protest to the continuing absence of basic facilities such as safe drinking water, hygienic food and inhabitable hostel rooms, the student body has also claimed that they have not been provided with moot court facilities, sports facilities, and WiFi, despite being charged for the same.
The other demands include the creation of a democratically elected Student Body Association, transparency in administrative functioning, and introduction of adequate medical facilities on campus.
Reacting to the resumption of the protests, the University administration had earlier issued a notice threatening the protesting students with strict action. An eviction notice was thereafter issued on Wednesday evening, directing the students to vacate the campus premises with immediate effect. Further, the University notice, stated to have been issued at the instance of the University Chancellor, had also warned that students choosing to remain on campus would be doing so at their own risk.
[Read the University Administration’s Press Note dated September 20, 2019 here]
[Read the detailed reply made on behalf of the students of HPNLU here]
Image courtesy: Twitter