In the wake of protests over the alleged suicide of an engineering student of a private college in Kottayam district, the Kerala government on Thursday announced the formation of 'grievance redressal cells' to look into complaints lodged by students in colleges and universities in the state.
Shraddha, a second-year student, was found hanging inside her hostel room on June 2.
The students had alleged that some teachers were harassing them in the name of internal tests. But, the college management rejected the charges and said they didn't know why the student committed such an act.
Student outfits including the Students' Federation of India and Kerala Students Union had held separate protest marches to the private engineering college in Kanjirappally against the 'suicide' of the student.
The proposed panel would be headed by principals in colleges and heads of the departments in universities respectively.
Higher education minister R Bindu, who made the announcement during a press conference in Thiruvananthapuram, said besides the two teachers recommended by the panel chairpersons, representatives of student unions and nominees of Parent Teachers' Association and university syndicate would also be part of the new committee.
One of the representatives of the teachers and students of the grievances cell would be a woman.
"Seven members will be the quorum of the meetings of the grievance redressal cell and the chairpersons have the moral responsibility to implement the decisions taken by the majority members," the minister said.
Noting that the powers of the panel have been fixed, she said the students can approach it regarding various issues including the denial of certificates without any valid reason, imposition of exorbitant fees, exam-related complaints and division in the name of caste, religion and sex.
Any kind of physical and mental torture from college/university authorities', teachers, other staff or co-students can be brought to the new panel.
If the students have not got justice from the existing forums in the respective institutions, they can approach the grievance redressal cell with their complaints, the minister said.
If the student has any complaint regarding the decision of the cell, he or she can approach the appellate committee or the existing tribunal with an appeal and its decision would be final.
Each institution has the legal responsibility to implement this final decision and those who violate it would face stringent action including imposition of fine, cancellation of affiliation, withdrawal of government funds and so on, the minister warned.
On the complaints regarding internal marks, Bindhu said they were envisaged for the constant evaluation of students' abilities and should not be used as a tool to control and threaten students in educational institutions.
Directions would be issued to universities to ensure clear-cut criteria for giving internal marks, she added.