Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia on Monday directed the authorities to ensure that no action is taken against the Ambedkar University student fined for allegedly posting "distasteful remarks" online against Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, prompting the varsity to withdraw its earlier order. Sisodia, who spoke to the penalised student on Monday, also ordered that relevant directions be issued to all universities that come under the aegis of the Delhi government to ensure that no such action is taken against students in future for expressing their opinions, unless they are damaging to the social fabric of the country or go against its constitutional values.
A fine of Rs 5,000 was imposed on Neha, a final year student of the university, last week for allegedly posting "distasteful remarks" online against the chief minister during the annual convocation on December 23 last year.
Kejriwal was the chief guest at the event.
"It has been brought to my notice that disciplinary action is been taken against a student of Ambedkar University Delhi for voicing certain remarks against the chief minister and myself. Firstly, no action should be taken against any student for expressing a viewpoint that is different from the government or the university, unless the said statement damages the social fabric of our country or is against our constitutional values," Sisodia said in an official order.
"Secondly, since the student was expressing her viewpoint against the government, as being reported in media, the matter should have first been brought to our notice before initiating any action against her. A university should be a safe space for students to freely voice their opinions, debate and develop their points of views. No student should be punished for exercising their right to free speech within the university space," he added.
Sisodia, who is also Delhi's Education Minister, further said, "This is not the vision I have for my country or any of our universities. If voices of criticism and dissent cannot be expressed against political leaders in our country, then we are no longer a democracy but a dictatorship. And this, in itself, is a reason why the Right to Freedom of Speech must be secured for every student and every citizen".
The deputy chief minister directed the principal secretary, higher education to look into the matter and ensure that the fine imposed on the student is cancelled and she faces no action for her remarks.
According to university officials, the order imposing the fine on the student has been withdrawn following Delhi government's order. The university had last week in a statement said people had joined its ninth convocation on YouTube.
"During the programme, the student started disrupting it using the YouTube chat room. The comments made by the student were derogatory/slur/distasteful. The convocation is the most auspicious programme in the academic cycle of any student. The conduct... was unbecoming of a student and was against the values for which Dr B R Ambedkar University stands," the university said.
"The action was taken as the conduct of the student was in violation of the code of discipline prescribed and notified for the students of AUD," the statement had said.
The Left-backed All India Students'' Association (AISA) had alleged that the student was fined Rs 5,000 for an "online protest against the university's fee hike and discrepancies in the implementation of the reservation policy".
"Deputy CM Mr @msisodia personally reached out & assured that no action would be taken against me. @weareAUD admin must, now immediately take back the fine notice & AUD student community must keep up the fight against high fees & new admission policy that alienates sc/st student!," the penalised student tweeted.