On Saturday, March 15, 2019, six students from the Rajiv Ghandi National Law University were reportedly suspended after publicly demanding improvements in the quality of their student hostel’s food services.
The students had staged the protest on Friday, March 14. The following day, university authorities established a committee to investigate the matter, and quickly ordered the students suspended. University authorities have alleged that the students were suspended for “indiscipline.” There is no allegation that the students have engaged in violent or destructive behavior.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the dismissal of students in apparent retaliation for nonviolent expressive activity — conduct that is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which India is a party. University authorities have a responsibility not to interfere with academic freedom or expressive activity, so long as that activity is undertaken peacefully and responsibly. Retaliation intended to punish such expressive activity undermines academic freedom, related higher education values, and democratic society generally.
UPDATE: On March 18, following several days of protests, the university lifted the suspension against the six students and ordered an investigation into the administrative officer who passed the suspension order.