Public Inquiry against the JNU VC | Article of Charge 6: Displaying a Callous Attitude towards Najeeb Ahmed and Failing to Protect a Student’s Interest

As one of the jury members pointed out yesterday, JNU has been able to achieve its place in the academic world because it has always functioned on the basis of a sense of Community. This does not mean that there are no contradictions within the community; it rather means that this University has been created by a community of students, teachers and staff who truly represent the diversity of our country, amidst great challenges. It has not been created simply with just a narrow legal framework but with, what the jury said yesterday, a “ethico-legal” framework, a framework which actually is, and should be, the hallmark of all Universities in true sense.

A University is a highly moral space and this morality is ensured by everybody’s adherence to this ethico-legal framework, which implies not just the statutes but a whole range of conventions. While the ethico-legal framework and the conventions are very-very important for the academic matters of the University, it becomes more important for the community’s day to day life.

As was pointed out by the earlier presenters on Article 6, no law or statues are enough and adequate to address the needs of a residential University like that of JNU and hence the community has to evolve, and it did evolve its own mechanism to address the contradictions within it. GSCASH became a model, and so is the social life in JNU, a model for campuses not just within the country but across the world. Anybody who has got an opportunity to witness the community life in JNU, except the present VC, Prof. M Jagadesh Kumar, has actually cherished and praised its richness. We wish, Prof. Kumar, was not an exception.

The JNU community in the last five decades has successfully built a strong and academically vibrant atmosphere which provides appropriate encouragement for sound and fruitful relationship between the intellectual and social life of the students and for those aspects of the University life outside the class-room which contribute to their growth and development as mature and responsible human beings. All those who have been associated with JNU always call it their second home, a home filled with warm people, whom we know as the JNU community.

However, this does not mean that the University does not have statutory provisions for this.

As per the Statute 10(1) of the Second Schedule of the JNU Act 1966, the Dean of Students, is one of the officers of the University, who is appointed by the Executive Council on the recommendation of the Vice-Chancellor. And the power of the Dean of Students, governed by the Academic Ordinance, in its Clause 11 (Approved vide Resolution No. 21/EC/2.1.1972) clearly states that:

The Dean of Students in the University shall look after the general welfare of the students as also provide appropriate encouragement for sound and fruitful relationship between the intellectual and social life of the students and for those aspects of the University life outside the class-room which contribute to their growth and development as mature and responsible human beings.

However, what we are going to present now will testify that the way Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar has failed to uphold and implement not just the Statutory provision but also the ethico-legal framework to ensure protection of the entire JNU community.

On October 15, 2016, Najeeb Ahmed, a first year student of the MSc Programme at the School of Biotechnology went missing from his room in a Hostel of the University. The night before, Najeeb was assaulted by a group of students within the hostel premises. The Vice-Chancellor and his Administrations’ callousness have been directly responsible, for the circumstances behind a student of the University going missing from the University campus.

The Hostel Administration not only failed to protect Najeeb from being assaulted, but projected him in a bad light in its first meeting held after that. In any such case while the convention in JNU has been to issues show cause notices to anybody engaged in violence inside the hostel premises, the Hostel Administration under the pressure of the assaulters instead pronounced Najeeb Ahmed guilty and ordered his immediate hostel transfer without any proper enquiry.

As reported in the Article of Charge on GSCASH earlier, while the University Administration has been enthusiastically making video-recording of all events inside the campus, there was no video recording done of this assault on Najeeb despite the presence of the University security. Nor did the JNU Administration show any excitement this time, like they did ironically only a few months before, in reporting the incident to the Police.

The Vice-Chancellor, Prof. M Jagadesh Kumar did not issue any statement after the incident. The JNU administration in its first Press Release on October 17, 2016, almost 48 hours after the incident, instead of issuing an appeal to Najeeb guaranteeing him full security and justice by punishing those involved in assaulting him, addressed Najeeb as an “accused” (Annexure-I). Why did the JNU Administration choose to ignore the Wardens’ Committee report dated 16th Oct, 2016, where it had categorically mentioned about the brutal assault on Najeeb remains unanswered.

Without conducting any inquiry, the JNU administration’s action was only in contravention of the principles of natural justice which calls for fair hearing of all parties involved. It not only would have potentially added more fear in the minds of Najeeb but also in the minds of several other students, particularly those belonging to the marginalized sections in the University campus. In fact, such acts of partisanship from the very beginning only indicated towards a deliberate prejudice against Najeeb and put serious questions on the JNU Administration’s objectivity.

The Vice-Chancellor and his administration further lowered the prestige of the University by the way they treated the family of Najeeb Ahmed. Despite being aware of the fact that Najeeb’s family had arrived in the campus on October 15, the day Najeeb went missing, the VC did not even show the “basic human emotion” by talking with or meeting Najeeb’s family for the next four consecutive days. The family finally had to force their way into the VC’s office on Oct 18, 2017. However, the response that they got from the VC and his Administration only showed their “insensitivity” towards Najeeb and his family. (Annexure II).

The JNU administration neither filed a missing complain, which could have led to a totally different protocol of search and investigation, nor did it file a complaint against the assaulters of Najeeb to give him justice. The demand of the JNU community (both students’ and teachers’) to have a fair inquiry did not heed any response from the VC. The JNU Administration in its Press Release on October 26, 2016 once again did not mention the assault on Mr. Najeeb by a group of students. This clearly indicated that the administration was trying to protect and give clean-chit to the assaulters of Najeeb in-advance. The Vice Chancellor and his team did not show any seriousness in conducting an impartial inquiry in the incidence of violence, let alone protect those who were feeling threatened by the perpetrators of mob violence inside the University Campus.

While the University Administration announced that a Proctorial Enquiry has been initiated, it also made a complete mockery of rules the University by announcing that the Proctorial enquiry report would be submitted to the Provosts Committee for its recommendation. This further confirmed that the real objective of the University was not to do justice with Najeeb Ahmed but to delay any action. In an extremely shocking move, the Administration in its zeal to unnecessarily sensationalise the issue in its press release title “Summary and Update of the Events” tried to link it with the issue of a bag containing pistol found at the North gate of the University almost a month later.

The Administration, in order to delay the process further, initiated proctorial enquiries against the students demanding justice for Najeeb after his disappearance.

With no response from the JNU Administration, the family of Najeeb was left with no option and filed a writ petition in the Delhi High Court On Nov 21, 2016. But when the vase was taken up for hearing, the JNU Administration did not appear before the Court or submit any response. The Delhi High Court expressed displeasure at this ‘“attitude” of the JNU Vice-Chancellor for not assigning anyone in the matter despite being served a copy of the petition. It further said, “He does not think it is an important matter? This is not a good attitude’ and asked the JNU administration to file a response to the petition. (Annexure III- Telegraph Report attached)

Shameful was the fact that despite the proctorial inquiry issued show cause notices to those identified as Najeeb’s assaulter (Annexure – IV and V), they were not declared guilty of any act of misconduct and indiscipline and were simply let off with a hostel transfer order by the JNU administration (Annexure – VI and VII).

The asymmetry of the punishment can be witnessed from the fact that the same JNU administration found six students, including all JNUSU office bearers, guilty of misconduct and indiscipline for seeking justice for the missing student Najeeb. The punishment in this case included, along with hostel transfer, an imposition of a fine of Rs 20,000 each, and blocking of their academic process (a sample of the order attached- Annexure VIII).

The investigation by the Delhi police did not lead the case anywhere and hence the Delhi High Court, on a plea by the Najeeb’s mother in May 2017 transferred the investigation from the police to the CBI. However, there months later in August when CBI failed to file a fresh progress report in the case, the HC rebuked it, saying the probe was not transferred to the agency “for fun”. But despite six months into investigation, the CBI has not led us anywhere. Hearing the plea on Oct 16, 2017, the High Court expressed unhappiness with agency’s probe into Najeeb’s disappearance and came out heavily on the contradictions that appeared in CBI’s oral submissions and status report.

In what we have presented above, it clear shows that the way Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar has dealt with the issue of Najeeb, he has no respect for a space that is JNU. He is therefore charged with displaying a callous attitude towards Najeeb Ahmed and failing to protect JNU’s community life from the threats which have been arising repeatedly ever since he has joined this University as the Vice-Chancellor.

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