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Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Conversation - VII (On Ragging...Law & Remedies)

Avinash: (Holding the newspaper) Tch tch tch..what a sad case !

Me: Show me....... Damn. Another boy admitted to the ICU after an harrowing twenty hours of ragging. What a pity ! This reminds of the Aman Kachroo case.

Avinash: What happened to him ?

Me:        A 19 year old Delhi Public School (DPS) student Aman Kachroo had taken admission in Dr Rajendra Prasad Medical College, Tanda, in Kangra, Himachal Pradesh .He passed out of DPS International in Saket and enrolled at the said Medical College.  He used to repeatedly complain to his parents about the brutal ragging that took place on campus often by drunk third-year students. In the intervening night of 6 / 7 March, 2009, four senior students entered the junior boys hostel in an inebriated state in wee hours. The security guard on duty at the entrance let these boys enter without any resistance. All the freshers were called in the common room and were lined up with their heads down. They were slapped, made to stand and sit in torturous postures and their heads were banged against the wall by the four senior boys.  Kachroo suffered ear pain because of severe beating in the beginning and therefore left the common room. But, his absence was noticed by one of the senior students who called him back to the common room, Despite his desperate pleas, Aman was badly thrashed by all the four seniors.  The sort of ragging continued till early morning in the common room and some other juniors were again called to another room where they were subjected to more verbal abuse. Aman was beaten so badly that he died. According to the forensic report, he died of brain hemorrhage induced by injury inflicted during excessive beating. Revelations of Kachroo's room mates to a probe team indicated that Aman was quite often targeted since he stood out from other students, the report of the probe team surprisingly added that, that this was not an exceptional episode of ragging in the college. In the said college students had to walk with bend head with tonsured hair, black trousers and white shirt, red brief and vest, no eye to eye contact with the seniors, no talks with the fellow girl students and listening to seniors carefully whenever addressed as fresher. The freshers were made to perform all sorts of indecent acts such as yelling abuses at a high pitch, standing nude, assuming torturous postures, smoking, drinking (liquor). Many seniors got their assignments done through them too. Isn't this shocking ? 

Avinash: Yeah. This is so wrong. And you know what ? I've heard of severe cases of ragging in the recent past which range from severe beating to gang rape, from being forced to consume alcohol to being pushed from the terrace. The brutality is horrifying.

Me: I recall the words of Jean Ingelow, who said

“Youth! Youth! How buoyant are the hopes;  
They turn, like marigolds, towards the sunny side.”

Education is a fulfilling, sustaining and developing artistic experience through which the youth walk towards their grandest ambitions. Imagine when the institution which is supposed to be the platform of such pilgrimage, turns into a breeding ground for fear, suppression, humiliation and not to mention the pain brought about by the menace of ragging. 

Avinash: Are you telling me that there is no mechanism in place in our system to tackle this menace ?

Me: Of course there is. 

Avinash: Let's talk about it then.

Me: Sure. Le'me first tell you what exactly, as per law, is ragging.

In the case of Vishwa Jagriti Mission through President Vs. Central Government through Cabinet Secretary & Ors,, the Hon’ble Supreme Court has defined ragging in an elaborate manner as :-

Any disorderly conduct whether by words spoken or written or by an act which has the effect of teasing, treating or handling with rudeness any other student, indulging in rowdy or undisciplined activities which causes or is likely to cause annoyance, hardship or psychological harm or to raise fear or apprehension thereof in a fresher or a junior student or asking the students to do any act or perform something which such student will not do in the ordinary course and which has the effect of causing or generating a sense of shame or embarrassment so as to adversely affect the physique or psyche of a fresher or a junior student.”

So also the Hon’ble Apex Court has ruled that

Ragging in essence is a human rights' abuse - It is a form of systematic and sustained physical, mental and sexual abuse of fresh students at college/university/any other educational institution at hands of senior students - Ragging means causing, inducing, compelling or forcing student, by way of practical joke or otherwise, to do any act which detracts from human dignity or violates his person or exposes him to ridicule or to forbear from doing any lawful act, by intimidating, wrongfully restraining, wrongfully confining, or injuring him or by using criminal force to him or by holding out to him any such threat.”


Avinash: I guess these elaborate definitions must be covering all forms and types of harassment in the name of ragging.

Me: Yes, they do. But these definitions are embedded in the verdicts of the Supreme Court. Its the Parliament or the State Legislatures that must come out with appropriate laws to prevent and / or punish instances of ragging. After all law making is their foremost duty, especially regarding those causes which have  become a reason for worry in the society, even more so when the issue is concerns with the future of our country that is to say our youth and our students.


Avinash: So there are no statutes or Acts or any codified law in place.

Me: Presently, there are only 5 state legislation in India that directly prohibit ragging. These are:

1. The Prohibition of Ragging Act, 1996. (Applicable in the state of Tamil Nadu).
2. The Kerala Prohibition of Ragging Act, 1998.
3. The Maharashtra Prohibition of Ragging Act, 1999.
4. The Prohibition of Ragging in Educational Institutes Act, 2000 (Applicable in the State of West Bengal). 
5. Assam Prohibition of Ragging Act, 1998.

Avinash: What controls or regulates the situation in other places ? Also tell me about the responsibilities cast upon the educational institution to prevent ragging in their campus ? Aren't there any ?

Me: The judgment of the Supreme Court in the case of Vishwa Jagriti Mission through President vs. Central Government, through Cabinet Secretary is particularly significant as therein Hon’ble Supreme Court, has laid down broad guidelines for colleges and educational institutes to prevent ragging. Very briefly, these guidelines are:

1. Anti -ragging movements to be initiated by all colleges and educational   institutes:
Anti-ragging movements should be initiated by the institutions right from the time of advertisement for admissions. The prospectus, the forms for admission and/or any other literature issued to aspirants for admission must clearly mention that ragging is banned in the institution and any one indulging in ragging is likely to be punished appropriately with punishment which may include expulsion or suspension from the institution or class for a limited period or fine with a public apology. The punishment may also take the shape of: (i) withholding scholarships or other benefits 
     (ii) debarring from representation in events
    (iii) withholding results 
    (iv) suspension or expulsion from hostel or mess, and the like. 


If there be any legislation governing ragging or any provisions in the Statutes/Ordinances they should be brought to the notice of the students/parents seeking admissions.

2. Undertakings to be taken both from the freshmen and their parents/ guardians: The application for admission / enrolment shall have a printed undertaking to be filled up and signed by the applicant to the effect that he/she is aware of the institution’s approach towards ragging and the punishment to which he or she shall be liable if found guilty of ragging. A similar undertaking shall be obtained from the parent/guardian of the applicant.

3Undertaking to be taken from seniors students and their parents/guardians too: The institutions which are introducing such a system for the first time shall ensure undertakings being obtained from the students and their parents/guardians already studying in the institutions before the commencement of the next educational year/session.

4. Notices to be issued indicating where to approach for redressal in case of ragging along with the addresses and telephone numbers of such persons, should be given to freshers at the time of admissions.

5. Management, Principles And The Teaching Staff To Have Personal Interaction With The Freshmen and take them in confidence by apprising them of their right as well as obligation to fight against ragging.

6. Practorial Committees To Be Set Up: At the commencement of the academic session, the institution should constitute a Practorial Committee consisting of senior faculty members and hostel authorities like wardens and a few responsible senior students in order:-

a) to keep a continuous watch and vigil over ragging so as to prevent its occurrence and recurrence,


b) to promptly deal with the incidents of ragging brought to its notice and summarily punish the guilty either by itself or by putting forth its  findings/recommendations/suggestions before the authority competent to take decision.

7. Ragging- Prone Zones To Be Identified And Carefully Guarded 

8. Society To Be Sensitised On The Issue Of Ragging

9. Failure To Prevent Ragging To Be Constructed As An Act Of Negligence: Failure to prevent ragging to be constructed as an act of negligence in maintaining discipline in the institution on the part of the management, the principal and the persons in authority of the institution. Similar responsibility shall be liable to be fixed on hostel wardens/superintendents.

10. Hostels/Accommodations To Be Carefully Guarded: The hostels/accommodations where freshers are accommodated shall be carefully guarded, if necessary by posting security personnel and placed in charge of a warden/superintendent who should himself/herself reside there, and wherein the entry of seniors and outsiders shall be prohibited before and after a specified hour of night except under the permission of the person in-charge. Entry at other times may also be regulated.

11. Migration Certificates To Mention Whether The Student Ever Indulged In Ragging

12Withdrawal Of Financial Assistance To Institutes Where Ragging Incidents Are Reported: If an institution fails to curb ragging, the University Grants Commission/Funding Agency may consider withdrawal of financial assistance to such an institution till such time as it achieves the same. A university may consider disaffiliating a college or institution failing to curb ragging.

13. Students To First Approach Their Colleges: In case of any incident of ragging, the students must approach the Disciplinary Committee of their respective colleges first, and only if the said Committee does not take cognizance of the matter or if they feel dissatisfied with its decision that they should approach the police. The objective behind this is to restore the faith in the ability of educational institutions to maintain discipline and protect the interests of their students.

Avinash: Ok


Me: It may be important to note here that the above stated guidelines are only illustrative and are not intended to come in the way of the educational institutions and authorities devising ways and mean to curb ragging. If there are any local laws governing ragging, they should be implemented and knowledge and information about such laws should also be disseminated.



Avinash: What about the R.K. Raghavan Committee recommendations. I've heard that it made comprehensive and sweeping recommendations to tackle the problem of ragging

Me: You're right. The R.K. Raghavan Committee was given by the Supreme Court the task of recommending ways & means to curb ragging in educational institutions. The Committee placed its report before the Supreme Court making as many as 50 recommendations in this regard. The Court, after thoroughly perusing the said report ordered as follows:-

(1) The punishment to be meted out has to be exemplary and justifiably harsh to act as a deterrent against recurrence of such incidents.

(2) Every single incident of ragging where the victim or his parent/guardian or the Head of institution is not satisfied with the institutional arrangement for action, an FIR must be filed without exception by the institutional authorities with the local police authorities. Any failure on the part of the institutional authority or negligence or deliberate delay in lodging the FIR with the local police shall be construed to be an act of culpable negligence on the part of the institutional authority. If any victim or his parent / guardian of ragging intends to file FIR directly with the police, that will not absolve the institutional authority from the requirement of filing the FIR.

(3) Courts should make an effort to ensure that cases involving ragging are taken up on a priority basis to send the correct message that ragging is not only to be discourages but also to be dealt with sternness.

(4) In addition, the possibility of introducing in the educational curriculum a subject relating to ragging shall be explored by the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) and the respective State Council of Educational Research and Training (SCERT). This aspect can be included in the teaching of the subjects “Human Rights”.

(5) In the prospectus to be issued for admission by educational institutions, it shall be clearly stipulated that in case the applicant for admission is found to have indulged in ragging in the past or if it is noticed later that he has indulged in ragging, admission may be refused or he shall be expelled from the educational institution.

(6) The Central Government and the State Governments shall launch a programme giving wide publicity to the menace of ragging and the consequences which follow in case any student is detected to have been involved in ragging.

(7) It shall be the collective responsibility of the authorities and functionaries of the concerned institution, and their role shall also be open to scrutiny for the purpose of finding out whether they have taken effective steps for preventing ragging and in case of their failure, action can be taken; for example, denial of any grant-in-aid or assistance from the State Governments.

(8) Anti-ragging committees and squads shall be forthwith formed by the institutions and it shall be the job of the committee or the squad, as the case may be, to see that the Committee’s recommendations, more for particularly those noted above, are observed without exception and if it is noticed that there is any deviation, the same shall be forthwith brought to the notice of this Court.

(9) The Committee constituted pursuant to the order of this Court shall continue to monitor the functioning of the anti-ragging committees and the squads to be formed. They shall also monitor the implementation of the recommendations to which reference has been made above.


Avinash: Now you don't have to tell me that the non compliance or callousness of the concerned authorities in implementing the above rules shall attract legal consequences.


Me: Contempt of Court proceeding, to be specific. In fact the Aman Kachroo incident took place when there was already a set of elaborate guidelines against ragging issued by the Supreme Court in the Vishwa Jagriti Mission caseDespite the Supreme Court’s rulings and guidelines, there was a complete collapse of authority and responsibility in the command structure. It was reported in Aman Kachroo’s case that the faculty and college administration had looked away from the campus brutality. Even after the death was reported, administrators tried to pass off the death as a suicide. Only after the matter blew up and the Police got involved, the principal, as a token gesture, rusticated four students suspected to be involved in the ragging. The Supreme Court stepped in and asked the authorities concerned in Himachal Pradesh to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them. The Apex Court had ruled that for every incident of ragging where the victim or his/her parents are not satisfied with the educational institution’s arrangements, a first information report (FIR) must be filed without exception by the institutional authorities with the local police. Any failure on the part of the institutional authority or negligence or deliberate delay in lodging the FIR shall be construed to be “an act of culpable negligence”, it further ruled. Thus the institution in which ragging takes place cannot evade from its responsibility to, both, proscribe ragging as well as adequately punish the raggers. Each and every guideline of the Hon’ble Apex Court as aforementioned has to be followed to the letter and spirit. No laxity therein would be tolerated as the lives and careers of the future architects of India are at stake.


Avinash: What else ?

Me: Let me also tell you another simple fact. Let's for a moment consider that all these guidelines of the Supreme Court do not exist. Even then there is ample remedy available for the aggrieved person. He can take recourse to the following provisions / sections of the Indian Penal Code :-


(In cases of ragging that does not include violence or bodily hurt):


S.294. Obscene acts and songs

S.341. Wrongful restraint 
S.342. Wrongful confinement
S.506. Criminal intimidation (threatening etc.)

(In cases of extreme ragging that includes violence):

S.323. Causing hurt
S.324. Causing hurt by dangerous weapons or means
S.325. Causing grievous hurt-
S.326. Causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapons or means 

(In case of a ragging where the victim has lost his/her life):


S. 302. Murder
S.304. Culpable homicide not amounting to murder
S.306. Abetment of suicide
S.307. Attempt to commit murder 


The victim or any person, who is aware of the incident, can go and lodge an FIR in the local Police Station. The Police may then arraign, after due investigation, the raggers under any of the aforementioned provisions of law, as per the facts of the case. They would then stand their trial in Court.


Under Section 357 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, if the raggers are ultimately found to be guilty then not only can they be sent to the jail, but also ordered by Court to pay compensation to the victim / any person who has suffered any loss or injury by reason of the act for which the accused person has been so sentenced.

Avinash: Healthy interaction should always be encouraged since it breaks the ice between the freshers and the seniors and makes the college ambience cohesive. But ragging in the pretext of interaction cannot be endured at any cost For any student who slogs day and night to secure admission into a prestigious college, ragging can be his or her worst nightmare come true. To put it in the simplest possible perspective a person who indulges in an act of ragging must put his own brother / sister in the shoes of the victim. 

Me: They should remember that ragging precedes a lose-lose scenario for both the perpetrators and the victim. While the victim lives under severe physical and psychological stress and stigma, the ragger too exposes himself to social flak, hatred, curse and definitely the iron hands of law especially in today’s changed circumstances where stringent anti - ragging rules and deep rooted anti - ragging spirit have pervaded our society and where we have avowed to uproot the menace in toto.

But you see, like most wrongs, reining in ragging would largely depend on personal choices. I had the good fortune of having very nice seniors in college. They made us do all kinds of inconvenient things. But they were full of jest and fun. They chose not to harass or intimidate us. They knew where to draw the line before matters became embarrassing or tormenting for us. Therefore we too never on our part complained against their actions because we could clearly ascertain their intention which was only to indulge in a bit of leg pulling. At the end of the process we became a unit where students of all ages, all batches, junior and senior, were treated with respect and love. The law against ragging is not meant for them nor should it be normally used against them. But every person has his own boundaries and his own threshold of tolerance. Therefore the moment it becomes intolerable for him it is advisable for the seniors to stop there. Understanding & transparency in communication between the seniors and juniors can go a long way in preventing untoward situations in colleges.
                                                   




                                                                          *******

14 comments:

  1. Interesting blog, Anupam, following it now.

    This article is really apt. Unfortunately, college authorities don't take ragging seriously. People are allowed to get away with it, and sometimes, I've even heard that hostel wardens are bribed or threatened by unscrupulous students to let them have a free hand. Unless there is a serious threat to these sick minded people, like suspension, jail, etc, there will be no real change. I wish people would realize that ragging can leave lifelong scars on its victims.

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    1. Thanks for dropping by Ash. Its good to have you on board.

      Absolutely correct, what you said. If the institutions start dealing with these incidents in the appropriate manner, a lot can be solved. What you've heard about the unscrupulous students is true, that's how most ragging in hostels take place. Now with the Supreme Court ruling, the onus is on the institutions to curb the menace or take appropriate action against the perpetrators.

      Regards

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  2. Pardon me for commenting without reading your post (spondylitis problem ),i just wanted to mention that i know a boy who was pushed into schizophrenia all because of ragging.His whole life has been destroyed.

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    1. No problem Indu. Read it when you get well. I hope that you recover soon.

      About the boy, consult a good lawyer. Its possible to not only send the guilty behind bars but also make them and / or the institution pay compensation for his sufferings.

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  3. Anupam, I'm glad you've taken up special interest in writing about ragging and its ill-effects. However, in India, it's just become a topic of discussion but we don't get to see any results or steps taken by the government with regards to it. Every year so many students are saddened by this and go to the extent of killing themselves. I only wish, instead of ragging if seniors would care about mentoring their juniors or giving them tips to how to perform in an interview etc.

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  4. its so sad to read these harrowing tales of ragging ... poor kids !

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  5. Ragging should be stopped immediately...

    http://debnature.blogspot.in

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  6. I believe that Ragging becomes a social taboo once it crosses its legitimate limits.Nevertheless,both college authorities and students union should forge strong alliances to mitigate such issues.

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  7. Very much informative. Keep up with the flow buddy.

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  8. Most people want to push all this under the carpet for the sake of preserving the name of the institution. I am shocked that the parents did not take the boy's complaints seriously. I think the blame should fall on the parents as well, in addition to the seniors and college authorities...

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  9. Elaborate Information! Hope it reaches the right audience.

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  10. Hi Anupam

    Very interesting article and thanks for all that info...We did have some ragging in our college which kind of reduced greatly from my second year onwards thanks to the intervention from the college authorities......The kind of torture being metted out to students like Aman is just a display of sadistic brutality and needs to be handled very severely.

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  12. Everything depends upon the basic education a student gets. A lucky student gets a good teacher who shapes his destiny. Some discussions on this topic are going on here: Education in Tamil Nadu.

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