The Delhi High Court on Thursday sought the stand of Delhi University (DU) on a petition by Congress students’ wing leader Lokesh Chugh challenging the varsity’s decision to debar him for one year for his alleged involvement in a screening of the BBC documentary on the Godhra riots on campus earlier this year.
The petitioner, a PhD scholar and National Students’ Union of India (NSUI) national secretary, said he was not even present at the site of the alleged screening and the authorities acted against him with a “premeditated mind”.
The petition was listed for hearing before Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal and lawyer Naman Joshi appeared for the petitioner who has also sought permission to submit his PhD thesis and undertake university examinations during the pendency of the petition.
“On 27.01.2023, there was a protest organized by few students at the Faculty of Arts (Main Campus), University of Delhi. During this protest, an allegedly banned BBC Documentary i.e. ‘India: the Modi Question’ was screened for public viewing. At the relevant time, the petitioner was not present at the protest site, neither had facilitated/participated in the screening in any manner,” the petition said.
In his plea, the petitioner said that to his “utter shock and dismay”, a show cause notice was issued to him by the DU proctor for his “alleged involvement in law and order disturbance during the screening of the BBC documentary” and subsequently, DU registrar issued a memorandum in March imposing a penalty of debarment from taking any examinations in the varsity for one year.
He said the debarment order is liable to be set aside for absence of finding on any specific ground of indiscipline as well as for non-application of mind and violation of principles of natural justice.
The petitioner claimed he was not afforded any opportunity to explain his conduct and although the memorandum suggested that there was a ban on showing the BBC documentary by government of India, there was no such prohibition on screening.
“Respondent No. 3 (Proctor) while issuing the SCN (show cause notice) operated in a premeditated manner in so far as she had voiced her public opinion against the protests..despite there being no material on record to show Petitioner’s involvement in the screening of the BBC Documentary, the petitioner has been debarred for a period of one year,” the petition stated.
“The Impugned Memorandum notably suggests that there is a ban on showing the BBC documentary by Govt. of India, which was taken cognizance by the Proctor, University of Delhi. However, to the knowledge of the Petitioner, there is no prohibition on screening of the BBC documentary,” it added.
The petitioner also alleged bias against him on the ground that six other students allegedly involved in the same incident have been asked to submit only a written apology while he has been debarred.
The plea also said that police detained a few students for the alleged screening but the petitioner was neither detained nor charged with any form of incitement or violence or disturbance of peace.
“The petitioner is a sincere and meritorious student of DU, and has exemplary academic record. Therefore the Impugned Memorandum is likely to rob the Petitioner of various academic and professional opportunities. Surely, alleged screening of the BBC Documentary cannot be a reason to deny the Petitioner a chance at academic excellence,” it said.
The matter would be heard next on April 18.