Retracting from its last month’s decision of awarding harsh punishment to students of Master of Computer Applications for ragging their juniors, the Jawaharlal Nehru University administration has commuted their penalty, letting them off with milder reprimand.
This was the first ever ragging case reported from JNU ever since its establishment 40 years ago.
In August, the JNU authorities had rusticated nine students for two years and declared the campus out of bounds for them for ragging their freshers.
Another 10 students, including three girls, who did not take part in ragging activities but were witness to such incidents and failed to prevent or report them, were expelled from the campus hostel for a year.
All the 19 were MCA students from the School of Computer and Systems Sciences, who later protested against the punishment meted out to them. They appealed to JNU Chancellor Yashpal – the highest appellate authority in such cases – for mercy late last month.
Prof. Yashpal then wrote to Vice-Chancellor B.B. Bhattacharya asking him to reconsider the students’ plea since they were “remorseful” for their action.
After considering the regret letters submitted by all the 19 students last week, the JNU authorities commuted the punishment.
Of the nine students who were earlier rusticated for four semesters, six have now been asked to pay a fine of Rs. 5,000 each, but their hostel facility will remain withdrawn for two years.
The hostel facilities for the remaining three students will remain withdrawn for a year.
“The decision to split the punishment between this group was taken on account of their level of involvement in ragging. Some students were actively involved, while others were not,” said Dean of Students’ Welfare V.K. Jain.
For the second group of 10 students, their hostel facility will be withdrawn for one semester (six months) instead of a year as decided earlier.
“The students have not been exonerated. They approached the Chancellor who made an appeal to us. In the light of that, the anti-ragging squad and the Proctorial Board sat together to look into the other punishments listed in the Supreme Court guidelines on ragging. We wanted to punish them but at the same time not harm their careers,” said Vice-Chancellor Prof. B.B. Bhattacharya.
“Before we commuted the punishment, all the 19 students gave a written undertaking stating that they were sorry for the incident, they pleaded for mercy, and promised not to repeat this kind of behaviour,” he added.
However, Prof. Bhattacharya did not feel the administration was backtracking from its earlier decision to award stringent punishment to students.
“We awarded expulsion because we felt the ragging incident had blotted the brand of JNU. We wanted to give out a strong message. Having said that, in the past also there have been cases where we have been compassionate to students. Moreover, these students have realised their mistake,” he claimed.
The MCA senior students called off their hunger strike earlier this month after the administration conveyed its willingness to reconsider their request.
“We are happy that we can at least attend our classes. Our career would have been ruined otherwise,” said some MCA students.
Interestingly, some MCA students still maintain they had not ragged their juniors.
“We can’t accept something that we have not done. In our apology letter also, we have mentioned that if according to the administration, we are guilty, then we apologise for it and assure that it will not happen in future,” said one MCA student.
A Proctorial inquiry committee had been formed after a first-year MCA student complained to the authorities alleging that freshers were being “tortured”.
Thereafter, the JNU anti-ragging squad also allegedly caught some MCA students ragging the fresh students in the Sabarmati Hostel on the campus.