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Students of the Army Institute of Law (AIL), Mohali have commenced an indefinite protest citing arbitrary disciplinary rules, administrative high handedness, and the failure of the authorities to respond to their concerns.
A statement issued by the student community today reads,
“The Institute, once a force to be reckoned with, has now been plagued by administrative inefficiencies, deteriorating quality of the teaching staff and a general sense of unreasonableness and apathy towards the students for some time now.“
The student protests, which commenced last night, are said to have drawn over 300 students who continue to camp outdoors at the AIL premises demanding that the authorities respond to eight principal demands.
The demands put forth by the student protestors include:
The immediate trigger for the protests appears to be the lack of administrative response to a joint petition circulated by the students on October 4, that had raised various systemic grievances.
The foremost concern raised in this representation was the lack of a student-elected representative body for the students. As noted in the student press release,
“The present student body consists of students who have been cherry picked by the authorities on recommendations of the wardens of the boys and girls hostels. The said student body has a very limited set of responsibilities, such as conducting the daily roll calls in the hostels, ensuring that students attend lectures in proper uniform, and act as personal henchmen to the wardens.“
The October 4 student representation had registered protest over this scheme of things, stating,
“In essence, the institute is devoid of an independently run student body…Having been denied the right to determine their best interest by appointment of a representative of their choice, the students are introduced to a system which endorses the ‘ideals’ of a dictatorial and nepotistic society. The medium of student-management interaction is administratively weak and functionally ineffective.“
The joint petition had proceeded to detail student grievances over various draconian rules in the AIL Code of Conduct, including the minimum attendance requirement of 85% (as opposed to the 75% prescribed for the Panjab University and the 70% made mandatory by the Bar Council of India).
The AIL Code of Code, running over 60 pages, also details fines leviable for specific offences defined in the code, including entering the mess in bathroom slippers and not paying respects/compliments to faculty members. Both offences are punishable with a fine of Rs 500 for the first offence and Rs 1,000 for the second offence.
Objecting to this scheme of things, the students had written to the authorities,
“Not only is the measure of fine for above situations unnecessary and excessive, but has been exercised by the authorities arbitrarily and in selective fashion. So much so, that the students have been fined under wrong heads for enhanced offences and excessive amounts, with no consideration to requests to rectify the same, thus exemplifying an oppressive tendency.”
Notably, the Code also prohibits joint action by students i.e. combined petitions, representations, agitations and strikes by students. Provision 1.34 (c) of the Code calls on students to air their grievances by individual applications instead. It states:
“Collective airing of grievances is not appreciated and will not be entertained. Those who have any grievances may individually submit an application or meet the Registrars or Principal and politely put across their grievances. The institute is committed to providing the best possible environment to study and pursue academic interests of the students.”
In their joint petition the students further recorded,
“It is essential to clarify that the students agree with adherence to most of the below-stated particulars but disagree with imposition of fines as a medium of compliance, for the same is disproportionate and unjustified.“
The student protestors have asserted that they would continue with their protest until the administration responds to the various grievances raised. As stated in their press release,
“Presently on 16th October, 2019 students are yet to receive an acknowledgment or a response from the concerned authorities. Anticipating a reaction from the students, the wardens and the Registrar tried to contain the students in their hostels by placing barricades outside the gate. At 10 pm, students walked out of their hostels in solidarity, expecting an audience with the Registrar who was, and is present in the college premises.
300 students are braving the cold, mosquitoes and are camping below the statue of Lady Justice, hoping to peacefully uphold the dignity of the profession they have chosen by having their opinions heard in a fair, just and equitable manner. All the students have laid down mattresses in the college campus and refuse to budge till their statement of relief is acknowledged and assented to.“
For more updates on the protests, follow the student run social media handles on:
Read the student press release below: