On June 22, 2020, police briefly detained eight University of Delhi students and faculty members participating in a peaceful campus protest.
At least ten students and faculty members protested outside the vice-chancellor’s office, denouncing a decision by the university to hold online and open-book exams for final-semester students as part of its plan to contain the spread of COVID-19, a novel coronavirus that became a global pandemic. Students and faculty opposed to the decision expressed concern that many students do not have the necessary materials or a reliable internet connection for the exams. Photos of the protest showed mask-wearing demonstrators holding signs with slogans such as “Say No to Online Exams” and “DU Against OBE [open-book exams].”
At one point, police reportedly detained eight of the protesters and brought them to a nearby police precinct. The protesters were released after they signed a pledge stating that they would adhere to Section 144 of the Criminal Procedure Code, which has been enforced by local authorities to prohibit protests and other gatherings in order to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Scholars at Risk is concerned by the detention of students and faculty participating in a peaceful protest — conduct that is expressly protected by 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. State authorities have a responsibility to protect and refrain from restricting or retaliating against such conduct, so long as it is nonviolent and responsible. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, detentions that restrict nonviolent expressive activity undermine academic freedom and democratic society generally.