ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Students' Rights

A charter of students' rights and duties needs to be drawn up if the prevailing intolerance fostered by the Sangh parivar is to be countered.

There is a strange notion that pre-vails among India’s ruling elite that the fundamental right to freedom of speech and expression, guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution is available only to some, not to others. Politicians, the media, trade unionists and political activists simply cannot be denied this right. Students are less powerful. Their rights can be abridged if not denied altogether. In law the right belongs to enemy citizen, prisoners included. It is another matter that constraints legitimate and justified in a given situation affect the exercise of the right. No prisoner can be denied the right to write a book. It is a matter of argument whether he can be allowed to contribute a column regularly. He certainly cannot be denied access to newspapers and literature.

The Times of India reported in its issue of November 27, 2000 that the Mumbai University has decided to approach ‘appropriate authorities’ (read: the state government and/or the police), to impose Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code “in the university campuses at Kalina and Fort”. This means no more demonstrations or protest meetings on the campuses. The news report said “On Tuesday (November 21) the university’s management council passed a resolution authorising the move to introduce (sic) Section 144” and proceeded to quote ‘university officials’ who cited instances of violent behaviour by students which entailed ‘an expenditure of Rs 75,000 in repairs’; students, on the other hand, complain that ‘university officials are not easily accessible’. They take no notice of protests on less a massive demonstration is held. Some take to violence which doubtless must be curbed if freedom of speech is to be upheld. Incidentally, strict orders under Section 144 cannot be maintained beyond a particular time. “University officials hope to make it a permanent feature though they add that they would consider lifting it if the situation improves.” As the correspondent Deepa remarked “This is small consolation for students, notwithstanding the fact that the student movement in the city has never gone beyond the routine protest”.

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