Last month, an examination question regarding a Muslim slaughtering a cow in front of three Hindus caused a furor across the nation.
The aforementioned question formed a part of the Law of Crime-1 paper conducted by Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University (GGSIPU) on December 7. This question sparked a row of controversies when the supreme court lawyer Bilal Anwar tweeted an image of the question paper stating that the question asked in the paper dehumanized the entire community. The tweet was retweeted several times before it came under the scrutiny of politicians, lawyers, and journalists from across the country.
Here is a new normal, De-humanising an entire community, A Law College at Narela, NCR’s Third Semester Question Paper pic.twitter.com/qCSEloSUac
— Bilal Anwar (@bak_bilal) December 9, 2018
According to a report by The Indian Express, the university, when contacted, said that they regretted the question and decided to delete it later. They further stated that they will not evaluate the students on their answer.
Succumbing to the political pressure and without conducting a full and fair inquiry into the matter, the University passed the impugned adverse order on 20.12.2018 barring professors, Dr. Upma Gautam, and Dr. Rakesh Kumar, who had made the question paper, from setting or moderating any question paper for the next six semesters.
Thereafter, the Deputy Cheif Minister of Delhi ordered an inquiry into the matter. He passed as impugned order dated 31.12.2018 ordering the immediate termination of professors in charge of setting the question paper. In an interview to the Indian Expresses, he was quoted saying,
“It is very bizarre and seems to be an attempt to disturb the harmony of society. We won’t tolerate such misconduct. I am ordering an inquiry, and if found true, strongest action will be taken.”
In pursuance to this order, a meeting of Board of Management of the University was called to discuss the illegal termination of the professor.
Stating that the decision to terminate was in violation of Article 311 and Article 14 of the constitution, the professors approached the High Court seeking appropriate remedies.
During the hearing, the counsel for the petitioners vehemently argued that the allegations of inciting communal violence were false, as the question was asked only to check the student’s understanding of the offenses under the Section 153 and 153A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 falling under the Unit “Offenses Against Public Tranquility” of their syllabus. They also argued that the orders dated 20.12.2018 and 31.12.2018 had a chilling effect on the scholarly independence and the right of the petitioner to carry out their professional obligations without fear.
The High Court, after listening to the arguments led by both the parties, finally granted interim relief in favor of the professors, setting aside the order of the university and the directions of the deputy CM, and thereby upholding the rules governing principles of natural justice.