TISS Ph.D. scholar challenges institute over his suspension in Bombay High Court 

The Tata Institute of Social Science says the Dalit Ph.D. student did not appeal to the vice-chancellor against his suspension before moving the Bombay High Court

Published - May 21, 2024 11:33 pm IST - MUMBAI

Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) campus in Mumbai. File

Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) campus in Mumbai. File | Photo Credit: VIVEK BENDRE

The Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS) in Mumbai on Tuesday stated that the 30-year-old Ph.D. scholar Ramadas K.S. has a remedy in his appeal from suspension before TISS vice-chancellor and the petition ought not to be entertained. The petitioner, Mr. Ramadas, who hails from the Scheduled Caste has challenged the institute’s suspension over his alleged ‘misconduct and anti-national activities’ at the institute.

The vacation bench of judges, Justice Arif S. Doctor and Justice Somasekhar Sundaresan were hearing Mr. Ramadas’s plea after an order suspended him from the institute on April 18, 2024. As per the order, Mr. Ramadas is suspended for two years for his alleged repetitive misconduct and anti-national activities on the campus. 

He was suspended for “engaging in unlawful activities during protests” and “disobeying the institute’s rules”. These include participating in a march to Parliament in January, screening a banned BBC documentary as well as the National Award-winning documentary Ram Ke Naam, and unlawfully overstaying on campus, among other charges.

An affidavit, filed by TISS Registrar Narendra Mishra, stated that as per the handbook for M-Phil and Ph.D. Scholars for 2016-2017, the appellate authority for decisions made by an Empowered Committee of the Institute, lies with the Director of the Institute, who in this case is the Vice Chancellor.

“In view of increasing issues of serious misconducts by the students, a high-level common committee consisting of officials holding senior posts within the institute was constituted to deal with all issues of misconducts and disciplinary action of all the students of TISS, rather than a different committee. The said committee was constituted by passing resolution dated March 14, 2024, in Administration Co-ordination Committee which is headed by Vice Chancellor. The representative from students union was not included in said committee as there was major protest on the night of January 22, 2024 where student union office bearers along with other students from across the group were also present in the protest on the campus,” the affidavit states.

TISS affidavit highlighted that since there was no scope for any confusion or misinterpretation on the part of the petitioner since the remedy of appeal was specifically highlighted while communicating the impugned order to the petitioner and Mr. Ramadas had not resorted to the alternative remedy for appeal before the vice-chancellor, his petition therefore amounts to ‘abuse of the process of law’.

Appearing for Mr. Ramadas, senior advocate Mihir Desai and advocate Lara Jesani refuted the claims made by TISS of the availability of an alternate remedy in appeal before the vice-chancellor. In the petition, Mr. Ramadas raised that the institute’s empowered committee carried out an arbitrary inquiry without giving him the opportunity of a personal hearing and did not consider his reply to the show cause notice. The petition states that, “Since the time Mr. Ramadas joined the institute, he has been a hard-working and dedicated student who has been actively engaged in academics, has been active in the student community to raise issues faces by the students as well as human rights concerns in the country. Since he is a deeply passionate and highly aware citizen of the country, he therefore has been positively engaged in student politics.” 

In his rejoinder in response to the affidavit in reply filed by TISS, Mr. Ramdas has refuted the availability of an alternate remedy in appeal and pointed out that no provision for appeal is provided in the latest handbook of the institute. “The institute is misleading the high court by referring to an old handbook that was neither provided to students nor available online. The 2023-2024 handbook does not provide the remedy of appeal before the vice-chancellor,” he said.

At the hearing today the senior counsel requested the court to grant interim relief to the student as the Central government scholarship availed by the student had stopped owing to the suspension, making it difficult for him to survive. 

The judges bench said that since pleadings are completed, matter can be heard on the aspect of alternate remedy first and has kept the plea for hearing on June 18.

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