In a relief to former Jawaharlal Nehru University students union president Kanhaiya Kumar and 14 other students, the Delhi high court on Thursday set aside the disciplinary action taken against them by the university in connection with an event organised there in February last year.
Justice V Kameswar Rao said the JNU's orders imposing varying punishments on the students was issued without following the principles of natural justice, as they were given limited time to inspect the records based on which the punitive actions were taken.
The court sent the matter back to the varsity's appellate authority, the Vice Chancellor, to be decided afresh after giving two days to each student to inspect the records and one week to file an appeal against the penalties imposed on each of them.
Thereafter, the appellate authority shall hear each of the students and subsequently, after considering the appeals filed by them, 'pass a reasoned order as expeditiously as possible', preferably within six weeks from the date of hearing, the court said in its judgment.
It also clarified that the students would abide by their undertakings given earlier to the court that 'they shall not indulge in any strike or 'dharna' or agitation or coercive action in future in connection with the issue, till such time the proceedings between the parties attain finality'.
The verdict came on the pleas of the students, also including Umar Khalid and Anirban Bhattacharya who had claimed that JNU did not give them due opportunity to defend themselves against the charge of indiscipline, as all of them were only given a few hours to inspect the records containing the allegations against them.
Apart from the charge of indiscipline against them, the students in their pleas had also challenged their punishment, which ranged from rustication for a few semesters to withdrawal of hostel facilities and fines.
The appellate authority had rusticated Umar from JNU for one semester, while Bhattacharya was rusticated till July 15, 2016 and then declared out of bounds from the entire varsity campus from July 25, 2016 for a period of five years.
Kanhaiya was slapped with a fine of Rs 10,000 for being part of the February 9, 2016 event on the campus against hanging of Parliament attack convict Afzal Guru during which anti-national slogans were allegedly raised.
After the event, the varsity had set up a High Level Enquiry Committee which had recommended disciplinary action against the 15 students.
The students had contended that the HLEC gave its findings without hearing them and later based on its recommendations, the university had imposed the punishments and penalties on them.
Kanhaiya, Khalid and Bhattacharya were earlier arrested in a sedition case in connection with the February 9 event.
They were later granted bail in the case in which charge sheet has not yet been filed.