A group of five present and former students of the English Foreign Language University (EFLU) were convicted on Tuesday in a case of defamation filed against them by their professor.
All five were sentenced to six monthsâ€™ simple imprisonment by the IV Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate.
However, the students were released on bail later the same day.
The professor, Meenakshi Reddy, who is the Dean of the School of Germanic Studies, had filed a complaint of defamation against the five students for allegations they made that she had discriminated against and harassed Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe students in the school.
Four of the five students, Munavath Sriramulu, D Mohan, B Ravichandran, and Upender belong to SC/ST communities, while Satish, the fifth accused belongs to an OBC community.
â€śWe have been given time till January 10 to appeal against the judgement. But before December 20 we have to pay a surety bond of Rs 5,000 each,â€ť said B Ravichandran, who is one of the accused in the case.
One of the allegations the students had made was that the Dean was responsible for continuously failing SC/ST students. They had alleged that she had driven one former student G Rajitha to attempting suicide, from which she was prevented by her friends. They had also accused her of forcing another student R Jayamurugan to quit the course by repeatedly failing him.
The group of students had also alleged that Meenakshi had abused students on the basis of their caste, telling them to quit the University and return to the traditional occupations of their caste.
They had also alleged that Meenakshi had purposely stopped remedial classes which are to be offered to students from SC/ST communities, as well as stopping the scholarship he received from the AP government.
The court based its judgement on a series of videos the students had uploaded on YouTube, in which they made these allegations against Meenakshi. It stated that the students could not substantiate their accusation that Meenakshi had purposely failed Sriramulu (since she was neither his teacher nor his examiner after the first semester) or Rajitha and Jayamurugan (since no evidence was provided to support these claims).
It also observed that Meenakshi was not responsible for conducting remedial classes, which were the responsibility of the SC/ST cell to organise and not the School of Germanic Studies, or for disbursing scholarships to the students. It also stated that the five students were unable to provide eye-witness or documentary evidence of instances when Meenakshi had abused students on the basis of their caste.
The court said that the accused had made several allegations against the professor without checking the truth and were not eyewitnesses of any of the so-called incidents.
The court also said that since allegations were made without any basis or substance and without taking proper caution, it was defamatory in nature.