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IIT-M row: SC panel summons HRD sec, IIT director

June 02, 2015 22:04 IST

The national scheduled castes panel on Tuesday issued notices to Union human resource development secretary and IIT-Madras Director asking them to appear before it on June 8 amid a political row over de-recognition of a students' body comprising mostly dalits.

In the midst of bitter face-off, IIT-M authorities held talks with the students group Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle in a bid to end the confrontation that has left the campus in turmoil and decided to convene a meeting of its Board of Students later this week or early next week to discuss the controversial de-recognition.

The National Commission for Scheduled Caste's notice came after IIT-M defended its action against APSC in response to a notice sent by the panel in which the institute said there was no curtailment of "freedom of speech" or imposition of ban on any student organisation.

It claimed the registration of student organisation was "withheld temporarily" as it had issued pamphlets and put up posters publicly with the name of IIT-Madras, in violation of the norms.

The commission had taken suo motu cognisance of the de-recognition of the student body last week for allegedly violating the institute's code of conduct following a complaint that it was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

"We have issued notices to the Union HRD Secretary and IIT-M Director calling them for a discussion on the case on June 8. The notices were issued today," NCSC sources told PTI in Delhi.

Meanwhile, IIT-M authorities met representatives of the APSC in Chennai for an amicable end to the tussle.

The students’ body insisted on a rollback of the action against it and an apology during the talks.

At the meeting held after staging a protest earlier in the day, members of the APSC put forth a five-point charter of demands including its re-recognition and "unconditional apology from the dean (students) for misuse of official power."

The other demands included 'overturning' the 'undemocratic' code of conduct which was against Article 19 (a) Freedom of Expression, officially recognising all independent student bodies and providing democratic space and equal privileges like hall, IITM official mail account to all of them, an official statement from IIT-M said.

"After further detailed discussions, it has been decided to convene an emergency meeting of the Board of Students at the earliest (later this week or early next week, according to convenience of the members of BoS and APSC team," it said.

IIT-M, in its response to NCSC, claimed that no student organisation, particularly of SC students, has been banned, but registration granted to APSC for utilising the institute's infrastructure has been withheld temporarily, as it breached prescribed guidelines.

"IIT Madras has not banned any student organisation, in particular, any SC student Association.... the registration granted to this group for utilising the institute infrastructure has been withheld temporarily," IIT-M's Director-in-charge has said in his reply to the NCSC.

The APSC, which is registered with the Dean of Students, is expected to follow prescribed guidelines such as not using IIT-M's name to publicise their activities or garner support without official permission, the reply said.

"It has been noted that the APSC has not observed the above guidelines, in that they had conducted a meeting in the institute without the requisite approval and they have issue pamphlets and put up posters publicly with the name of IIT Madras without required approval," the institute said.

Unrest prevails on the campus since Friday after APSC's de-recognition by the institute that followed Union HRD ministry forwarding an anonymous complaint to it which accused the students’ body of spreading hatred against Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

IIT-M's action triggered political outrage and protests by several parties including Congress, Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Aam Aadmi Party and several others in Chennai and Delhi. Even the National Democratic Alliance's Maharashtra ally the Republican Party of India had described it as an "act of injustice" and an "attack" on freedom of expression.

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