New Delhi: Over 300 students of the Army Institute of Law (AIL) in Mohali are on an indefinite protest against the college administration over a number of grievances, ranging from arbitrary code of conduct and high-handedness to quality of faculty.
The students launched the protest Tuesday after the administration of the private-run college refused to address their concerns raised in a joint petition submitted two weeks ago specifying their concerns and demands.
The lack of an elected student body, arbitrary fee hikes and sexism towards female students are some of the other issues raised by the students.
While the institute chairman, Major General M.L. Aswal, sought to address the students Thursday over their grievances, students told ThePrint that they staged a walkout, claiming that the discussion was only peripheral.
Apart from seeking the appointment of an elected student body, the students are also demanding revocation of a controversial provision in the college code of conduct — “prohibiting collective airing of grievances” — and lifting of restrictions on movement of students, particularly women.
The institute, however, hasn’t yet acceded to any of these.
ThePrint reached AIL’s registrar, Retd Colonel Harbinder Singh, and principal, Tejinder Kaur, for a comment but there was no response until the time of publishing this report.
The vice-chancellors of Punjabi University, Patiala, which AIL Mohali is affiliated to, also didn’t respond.
This report will be updated if and when they respond.
Speaking to ThePrint, woman students at the Army Institute of Law highlighted the administration’s “arbitrary functioning”, citing the prevalent “sexism” in restrictions on them vis-à-vis the male students, and compared it to a “camp” of terror group Taliban.
“Our in-time (to enter the campus) is 9 pm, whereas male students do not have any such restrictions. Our library time also ends at 11 pm and they lock us down after that. Further, the college authorities frisk us as and when they want to,” said one of the female students who didn’t wish to be named.
“It is more like a Taliban camp here,” she added.
A “vast majority” of the 400 under-graduate students at the institute stay in campus hostels, said a press statement by the student committee of the institute, whose head is nominated by the authorities.
Titled ‘Bahar Aao Baat Karo’ or ‘Come out to talk’, the statement alleged there is an inherent lack of an organised disciplinary body to look into instances of violations and is constituted each time an offence is committed, in an arbitrary manner. It also alleged that there is selective targetting of students over such violations.
The panel added that the law institute has a stringent policy for attendance. In addition, there are issues with the quality of the faculty.
“Our college is deteriorating in terms of academics too, as teachers for the final year students keep changing and there seems to be no standard feedback format for them to address the issue,” said another student, who didn’t wish to be named.
Support for students
With the protest now going on for four days now, the Army Institute of Law students have been actively publicising their agenda on social media platforms Twitter and Instagram, with accounts such as ‘Protests at Army Institute of Law‘ and ‘BluepencilAIL‘, among others.
10 days of anticipation for a response to the joint petition has led to this.Meanwhile,the recepients are still sitting on our concerns and hopes.Please stand with us in solidarity in our struggle for a fair system.
Find the link to the petition along with our 8 demands below. pic.twitter.com/zIxX212gn9
— Protests at Army Institute of Law (@protests_at_ail) October 15, 2019
Some AIL graduates and student bodies of other law institutes such as National Law University (NLU) Jodhpur, NLU Himachal Pradesh, Chanakya NLU Patna and National Law School of India University, Bengaluru have released statements in solidarity, according to ALI students.
Advocate Sushant Kareer, a former AIL student, told ThePrint, “It is laudable that the students have finally come out protesting against the college administration who have turned the college into barracks than an institution of knowledge and learning.”
Speaking to ThePrint about the demands of the students, Ramanuj Mukherjee, corporate lawyer and co-founder of iPleaders, said, “There is no illegality in students having an elected body. Even if there are state laws that ban student politics in campus one can form non-political representative body based on student voting without involving any political parties.”
He added, “Law students are studying about rights and duties. Can you expect them to keep quiet before petty oppression from hostel officials or university clerks behaving like feudal lords?”