J. Venkatesan

“It has become synonymous with teasing, terror, harassment, cruelty, fear and torture”

An accused student must be given a chance to explain

If the explanation is unsatisfactory, he must be expelled

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Wednesday directed educational institutions to put down ragging with an iron hand and suspend/expel students indulging this activity. It asked regulatory bodies to reduce grants-in-aid to institutions that tried to shield the culprits.

A Bench of Justice Arijit Pasayat and Justice Mukundakam Sharma gave this direction on the basis of reports submitted by a committee constituted under the chairmanship of the former CBI Director, R.K. Raghvan.

The Bench said the Centre, the States and Union Territories should act in accordance with the guidelines formulated by the committee. The Medical Council of India and the Bar Council of India, in consultation with the University Grants Commission, should frame regulations which should be binding on the institutions.

As suggested by the committee, the prospectus must mention that if an incident of ragging “comes to the notice of the authority concerned, the accused student will be given an opportunity to explain and if his explanation is not satisfactory the authority will expel him from the institution.”

Expressing its anguish, the Bench said that seniors under the garb of ‘introduction’ ragged freshers forcing some to leave the institutions. Some more either attempted or committed suicide. Ragging had become synonymous with teasing, terror, harassment, cruelty, fear and physical and mental torture.

“Although some form of ragging is present in every educational institution, serious abuses of human rights take place generally in medical and engineering colleges and the Armed Forces. The form and effect of ragging differ from institution to institution. It creates a sense of fear in the minds of the first year students…”

Writing the judgment, Justice Pasayat said the regulations should be intimated to the students at the time of admission through the prospectus. “The consequences which flow from not observing the guidelines shall also be indicated. A question was raised regarding giving an opportunity to the offender before taking actions like expulsion etc. Delay in taking action in many cases would frustrate the purpose of taking urgent action.

“In such cases, if the authorities are prima facie satisfied about the errant act of any student they can, in appropriate cases, pending a final decision, suspend the student from the institution and the hostel if any and give an opportunity to him to have his say. Immediately, the police shall be informed and the criminal law set in motion. If it comes to the notice of the university or the controlling body that an educational institution is trying to shield errant students, they shall be free to reduce grants in aid and, in serious cases, deny grants in aid.” The Bench posted the matter for further hearing in March.