JNU attendance stir: Classes on staircases upsets HC

The Delhi High Court today termed as "unfortunate and sad" the holding of classes in JNU on its staircases amid an agitation against a decision to make at least 75 percent attendance a must for all the students.

Ruing the joint stir by the students and the teachers, the court said the manner in which the students, keen to attend classes, are being stopped is "very unfortunate."

Observing that this is not the way a university functions, a bench of Justice Rekha Palli asked the counsel for several JNU teachers to look into the issue and ask the students and faculty members not to block the way to class rooms.

"The manner in which students are being stopped is very unfortunate. This is not the way in which a university functions. Out of 8,000 students, 5,000 are not being allowed to enter. Its disturbing me," the judge said.

The court said the mode of protest was wrong as other students were approaching the court and saying they wanted to attend classes but were not being allowed to do so.

The court was hearing a plea by five professors of JNU's different disciplines challenging the December 12, 2017 decision of the varsity's Academic Council (AC), making 75 per cent attendance mandatory for students.

In their plea, the five professors have alleged that the decision was taken on the basis of "false and illegal minutes" contrary to the agenda and the proceedings of the 144th meeting of the Academic Council.

When senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the professors, said the sad part was that classes were taking place on staircases, the judge responded, "It is... It is really sad."

Pointing out that a lot of these students are working, Sibal asked how would they attend classes.

Maintaining that research programmes do not entail compulsory attendance, the senior advocate said the academic institutions does not work like this.

"Is it not an important issue which requires a thorough discussion? In world-class universities, the system of attendance is no more. We want the matter to be sent back to the AC and it should be discussed thoroughly," he argued.

Central government standing counsel Monika Arora, appearing for the JNU, argued that as per the University Grants Commission (UGC) regulations, the attendance is compulsory and in fellowship programmes, leaves of 30 days too are allowed.

She said the 75 per cent attendance was made mandatory in the wake of the drop out rate among students touching an alarming level of 40 per cent with the professors complaining of consistence absence by students.

The court, however, said it did not have the expertise to decide the issue of attendance and it was the prerogative of the University's administration.

It asked the JNU's counsel to address it on the point whether a thorough discussion was held at the AC before taking the decision on attendance and listed the matter for tomorrow.

The plea was filed by five professors -- Kavita Singh (School of Arts and Aesthetics), Uday Kumar (Centre for English Studies, School of Language, Literature and Cultural Studies), Dhir Sarangi (School of Language, Literature and Cultural Studies), Pradip Kumar Datta (School of International Studies) and Sucheta Mahajan (School of Social Sciences).

It said the petitioners who were also the members of the University's AC, along with other members had written to the University administration that the minutes of meeting were factually incorrect and the AC must be convened to correct it.

In response to these demands, a circular was issued on February 8, 2018, threatening the students with reduction of their fellowships and other coercive steps, the petition said.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)