BBC documentary row: Delhi HC seeks DU reply on student's plea against debarment

BBC documentary row: Delhi HC seeks DU reply on student's plea against debarment

For a year, Lokesh Chugh of the National Students Union of India (NSUI) was prohibited from taking any university, college, or departmental exams. Chugh is Ph.D. research scholar at the Department of Anthropology at the DU.

IANSUpdated: Tuesday, April 18, 2023, 01:58 PM IST
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Delhi University | File Photo

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Delhi University (DU) to file its response within three days on a plea by the national secretary of Congress' student wing challenging his debarment from the university on allegations that he organised a screening of the BBC documentary about Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

For a year, Lokesh Chugh of the National Students Union of India (NSUI) was prohibited from taking any university, college, or departmental exams. Chugh is Ph.D. research scholar at the Department of Anthropology at the DU.

During the hearing, Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav remarked that university's order did not reflect application of mind.

"There has to be independent application of mind which is not reflected in the order... The order must reflect the reasoning," the court said.

In his appearance on behalf of the DU, lawyer Mohinder Rupal said that the university's decision was based on some documents that he wishes to provide. Chugh's counsel claimed that there is considerable urgency in the situation because the deadline for turning in his PhD thesis is April 30.

Justice Kaurav responded that once the petitioner is before the court, his rights would be protected.

"Mr Mohinder Rupal seeks time to file counter affidavit. Let the same be done in three working days. Petitioner is also at liberty to file the rejoinder in two days thereafter. List on Monday," the court ordered.

The case pertains to a protest that was planned for January 27, 2023, on the DU campus during which, the BBC documentary 'India: The Modi Question' was also shown to the general audience.

Chugh claims in his plea that he was not even there during the protest since he was attending a media interaction.

"Pertinently, the petitioner was giving a live interview at the time when the documentary was being screened inside the Faculty of Arts (Main Campus). Thereafter, police detained a few students for screening the allegedly banned BBC documentary and subsequently charged them for disturbance of peace in the area. Notably, the petitioner was neither detained nor charged with any form of incitement or violence or disturbance of peace by the police," he stated.

However, the DU served him with a show-cause notice on February 16 alleging that he had disrupted law and order at the university during the screening. On March 10, a memorandum debarring him was then issued.

In his plea, Chugh claims that the university's order against him went against the principles of natural justice and that the disciplinary authorities failed to even inform him of the allegations and charges against him.

Therefore, Chugh demands that the memorandum and notice that claim Chugh was complicit in a breach of law and order be set aside. He has asked for a stay of the memorandum in the interim.

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