Kerala govt to file appeal against HC ban on strikes at school, college campuses

Kerala govt to file appeal against HC ban on strikes at school, college campuses

Kochi: The Kerala government has decided to file an appeal against the High Court ban on strikes, gherao and sit-in protests in campuses.

"The notion that agitations are needless will weaken democracy," Higher Education Minister K T Jaleel said, while stating that the state government will file an appeal against the order.

"The government is formulating a law to govern students' union activities. We shall consult legal experts to check if any changes have to be made to the Bill in the wake of the court order," the minister added.

After considering 20-odd petitions filed by various college managements, the Kerala HC had on Wednesday said that all forms of protest which affect the 'academic atmosphere' of educational institutions must be banned.

Delivering the judgement, the court said learning is the fundamental right of the students. "Campuses are places for creative dialogues and discussions. They should not be venues of the protests. Students should not be forced to boycott classes," the court said.

“The police should ensure that every student's Fundamental Right to Education is not violated.”

“Heads of schools and colleges, including those in the government sector, should seek the help of the police. If an oral or written request is received, the DGP has to issue orders to the cops to give protection,” the court ruled.

Justice P B Suresh Kumar passed the order after considering 26 petitions submitted by various school and college managements, and parent teacher associations(PTA). They alleged that student strikes were affecting academic growth of students and no action was taken despite seeking police help.

Excerpts from the court order:

•Apart from official meets, students' outfits should not be permitted to hold any other meetings at campuses.

•Education is a Fundamental Right. Any move to stall this is against the Constitution. When academic atmosphere is affected, students' right to education and the management's right to run organisations are violated.

•The order does not bar students from raising their voice over political issues, and seeking solutions. If the current system does not facilitate this, then authorities can consider forming a suitable forum for this.

Government students suffer the most’

The court also observed that the students of the government sector remain the most affected by campus politics.

While private educational institutions approach the court over campus strikes, government/semi-government institutions are shut down until protests wane.

“Instances of clashes between students’ outfits at campuses are on the rise. Weapons are found in campuses and even murders are committed. If there is trouble within the campus, then the parent organisations of student outfits intervene. Some institutions have been shut for an indefinite period of time over untoward instances,” the court observed.

Past judgments

The HC also cited the long list of court verdicts on the issue over the years.

An earlier judgment had granted managements the authority to ban politics in their respective campuses. Another court order also stated that students should not be forcefully made to boycott classes.

The court had also ruled earlier that police should give protection if the authorities ask for it.

In the 'Vijayakumar' case, the court ruled that if criminal activities take place in college premises, police has the right to take action and enter campus without permission.

The court said that agitations by students' outfits should be held outside the campuses.

The HC pointed out there was no change in the situation at the campuses despite these interventions made by the court.

The High Court has directed the Director of Collegiate Education, Higher Education Director, Director of Public Instruction, and University Registrars to inform the heads of the educational institutions to seek police help if classes are affected.

Freedom of Expression cannot affect student’s right’

The court pointed out that students had the freedom to form outfits, assemble peacefully and voice their opinions. The students might want to raise their voice over several social and national issues.

Talks, debates and constructive criticisms can be used as protest modes in a democratic society. However, this cannot be used to justify agitations, dharna or gherao at campuses that affect the academics of other students.

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