Students of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bengaluru have called off their protest with immediate effect, after word came in through an NLS alumnus that the Chief Justice of India had expressed his disapproval for their actions. The protest, which started last week, was called off on Monday afternoon. A large number of students had also incidentally boycotted their exams which were held earlier on Monday to voice their dissent.
The students have been voicing their dissent for over a week against the inordinate delay in the appointment of a full-time Vice-Chancellor (V-C). While the position fell vacant when the previous Vice-Chancellor R Venkata Rao completed his term of 10 years on July 31, his successor, Sudhir Krishnasamy had been named on August 2 following due procedure. Students allege that despite this, present registrar OV Nandimath who was one of the applicants for the V-C post and is a vital part of the existing framework is acting with vested interest to stall the process.
In a statement, senior advocate Gopal Sankaranarayan, himself an alumnus of NLSIU, said the Chief Justice of India Justice Ranjan Gogoi (also the Chancellor of NLSUI) and Justice SA Bobde had granted him an audience on the issue. He also communicated the stand of both the judges to the students.
According to the senior lawyer, the two judges opined that 'students ought to call off the protest and take part in their examinations immediately – the protest appears to be based on an incomplete understanding of facts, and ought not to be continued'.
The statement also raised doubt if the Chief Justice would attend the convocation ceremony “in this atmosphere”.
“Separately, a reservation was expressed about attending the forthcoming Convocation if the atmosphere were to be vitiated by student protests. They did not question the Constitutional right of students to protest issues but were unsure of their participation in such an event. As judges holding office in the Supreme Court of India, it would not behove them to be subject to this,” Gopal Sankaranarayanan’s statement said.
Reacting to Gopal’s statements, the Student Bar Association, said, “In this meeting, he (Gopal) was able to explan to their Lordships the concerns of the student body. The Hon'ble Judges have responded by acknowledging that although there has been some misinformation circulating, they have been cognizant of all the relevant facts concerning the situation of the appointment.”
“It is abundantly clear to them that that the decision of the Sub-Committee constituted by the Executive Council was final and that nothing more was left in the process except for a formal decision of the Chancellor, which will be released shortly,” it added.
The SBA further said, “The respected members of the Executive Council will face no hindrance of any form at their 89th Meeting and shall be welcomed by the student body wholeheartedly as they discharge their functions.”
The student body also assured it will fully support the annual convocation and ensure that it is held successfully.
The students also said they have faith in their alumni and the protest was the last resort and said they would like to apologise profusely. They said that the actions were not targeted towards any single individual but were driven by a “moral concern” regarding the delay of the appointment of the Vice-Chancellor.