DU moves HC against order setting aside debarment of NSUI leader over screening of BBC documentary

The Delhi University on Friday approached the Delhi High Court against an order setting aside the debarring of an NSUI leader for a year for his alleged involvement in screening on the campus a controversial BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Najmi Waziri issued notice to Lokesh Chugh, a PhD scholar and national secretary of Congress’ students wing, on the appeal filed by the varsity against the order passed by a single judge of the high court.

Chugh had approached the high court in April challenging the university’s decision to debar him for a year for his alleged involvement in the screening of the documentary — ‘India: The Modi Question’ — related to the 2002 Gujarat riots. The documentary was screened earlier this year.

The Centre had issued directions for blocking multiple YouTube videos and Twitter posts sharing links to the BBC documentary, which was described by the Ministry of External Affairs as a “propaganda piece” that lacks objectivity and reflects a colonial mindset.

The DU registrar had issued Chugh a memorandum in March under which he was not allowed to take part in “any university or college or departmental examination for one year”.

On April 27, the single judge set aside the decision, observing that it was taken in violation of the principle of natural justice, and “reasons are necessary to be assigned by the administrative authority” in the order.

“The court is unable to sustain the impugned order dated March 10, 2023. Impugned order is set aside. The admission of the petitioner is restored. Necessary consequences will follow,” the single judge had ordered.

The single judge had clarified that since the debarment order was being set aside for a lack of adherence to the principle of natural justice, the university was free to take action against the petitioner in accordance with the procedure.

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The DU had told the single judge that the NSUI leader indulged in “gross indiscipline” which tarnished the image of a premier educational institution.

The university, in its reply filed to the petition, had said it acted on the basis of a newspaper report on “banning the BBC documentary” and several persons, including the petitioner, assembled on the campus to screen the documentary in violation of Section 144 (issuance of prohibitory orders) of Code of Criminal Procedure imposed by police authorities.

The reply had said after watching the videos, a committee constituted after the incident “found that the mastermind of the agitation was the petitioner” and he was seen “actively being part of the unlawful assembly”.

The matter would be heard next on September 14.

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