Students at the Army Institute of Law (AIL), Mohali have begun an indefinite protest citing stringent disciplinary rules and the failure of the authorities to respond to their concerns.
A statement issued by the student community reads, “The Institute, once a force to be reckoned with, has now been plagued by administrative inefficiencies, deteriorating quality of the teaching staff and a general sense of unreasonableness and apathy towards the students for some time now.”
The students of AIL gathered on the night of 15th October 2019 to protest against the arbitrary functioning of the college administration and the unreasonable rules in the code of conduct. The students have 8 demands and the same were communicated to the authorities.
— Protests at Army Institute of Law (@protests_at_ail) October 16, 2019
The student protests, which commenced on October 15th night, drew over 300 students at the outdoors of the AIL premises demanding the response of authorities to eight demands.
The demands put forth by the students include:
- Constitution of a democratically elected student representative body
- Amendment of the AIL Code of Conduct and the revocation of various provisions challenged until then;
- Revising the process of faculty appointments
- Redressing grievances over poor cafeteria/mess infrastructure and the pricing and quality of food and catering
- Ensuring equal student representation on the Board of Inquiry when it comes to offences in the Code of Conduct
- Lifting the restriction of student movement within the campus post 23:00 hours, for both male and female students
- Constitution of an impartial and democratic Board of inquiry to look into the conduct of the female warden, until the completion of which an interim appointment shall be made in her place
- Addressing the hike in fees levied in the current academic year, as against static quality of hostels, IT facilities, sports infrastructure etc.
Director Colleges AWES HQ New Delhi : Approve the joint petition moved by the students of Army Institute of Law – Sign the Petition! https://t.co/PPMrOD3Cll via @ChangeOrg_India#baharaaobaatkaro#istandwithail
— Protests at Army Institute of Law (@protests_at_ail) October 17, 2019
Speaking to The Logical Indian, a student at AIL Mohali, requesting anonymity said: “Around 300 students have camped outside the academic block since three days now, following the filing of a collective petition concerning the issues that the students are facing at the hands of the college authorities. Since there was no response to the petition, the students have been since sitting out in protest. Today, we were addressed by the Chairman, who agreed to constant communication, but could not promise immediate redressal. Thus, the talks will commence again with the chairman tomorrow.”
The foremost concern raised in the protest was the lack of a student-elected representative body for the students.
As noted in the student press release, “The present student body consists of students who have been cherry-picked by the authorities on recommendations of the wardens of the boys and girls hostels. The said student body has a very limited set of responsibilities, such as conducting the daily roll calls in the hostels, ensuring that students attend lectures in proper uniform, and act as personal henchmen to the wardens.”
The October 4 representation registered a protest stating, “In essence, the institute is devoid of an independently run student body…Having been denied the right to determine their best interest by appointment of a representative of their choice, the students are introduced to a system which endorses the ‘ideals’ of a dictatorial and nepotistic society. The medium of student-management interaction is administratively weak and functionally ineffective.”
After the student sat on strike, the alumni of the institution also extended their support to the protestors.
The joint petition focused on rules in the AIL Code of Conduct, including the minimum attendance requirement of 85% (as opposed to the 75% prescribed for the Panjab University and the 70% made mandatory by the Bar Council of India).
The AIL Code of Code of over 60 pages details the amount of penalty leviable for specific offences defined in the code, including entering the mess in bathroom slippers and not paying respects/compliments to faculty members. Both offences are punishable with a fine of Rs 500 for the first offence and Rs 1,000 for the second offence.
The students wrote to the authorities saying, “Not only is the measure of fine for the above situations unnecessary and excessive but has been exercised by the authorities arbitrarily and in a selective fashion. So much so, that the students have been fined under wrong heads for enhanced offences and excessive amounts, with no consideration to requests to rectify the same, thus exemplifying an oppressive tendency.”
Notably, the Code also prohibits joint action by students i.e., combined petitions, representations, agitations and strikes by students.
In their joint petition, the students recorded, “It is essential to clarify that the students agree with adherence to most of the below-stated particulars but disagree with the imposition of fines as a medium of compliance, for the same is disproportionate and unjustified.”
The student protestors have claimed that they would continue with their protest until the administration responds to the various concerns raised. As stated in their press release, “Presently on 16th October 2019 students are yet to receive an acknowledgement or a response from the concerned authorities. Anticipating a reaction from the students, the wardens and the Registrar tried to contain the students in their hostels by placing barricades outside the gate. At 10 pm, students walked out of their hostels in solidarity, expecting an audience with the Registrar who was, and is present in the college premises”
“The communications are still in progress with the authorities, however, the protest isn’t even close to a resolution yet. We’re meeting the Chairman again tomorrow and hope that the talks go better than they did today. This marks the third day of the protest,” a student at AIL Mohali told The Logical Indian.
As the protests continue, 300 students are hoping to peacefully protect the dignity of the profession they have chosen by having their voices heard in a fair and just manner.