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Heads Of Higher Educational Institutions Shall Be Held Responsible For Ragging Incidents : Uttarakhand HC

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       While taking the most serious note of the growing incidents of ragging even in higher educational institutions, the Uttarakhand High Court has in a most learned, laudable, landmark and latest judgment titled Sachidanand Dabral v. Union of India & Ors in Writ Petition (PIL) No. 23 of 2022 that was pronounced as recently as on March 21, 2023 has held in no uncertain terms that the heads of higher educational institutions shall be held responsible for the ragging incidents. The Court has also passed directions to the State and University authorities to strictly implement the Regulations to curb ragging in all the higher educational institutions of the State. Needless to say, such directions must be implemented most strictly and at the earliest so that this menace of ragging can be nipped in the bud as early as possible.    

                              At the very outset, this brief, brilliant, balanced and bold judgment authored by Hon’ble The Chief Justice Sri Vipin Sanghi for a Division Bench of the Uttarakhand High Court comprising of himself and The Hon’ble Sri Justice Alok Kumar Verma sets the ball in motion by first and foremost putting forth in para 1 that, “This petition has been preferred by the petitioner in public interest to seek direction to the respondent Nos. 1 to 5, i.e., the Union of India; the National Medical Commission; University Grants Commission; Sushila Tiwari Government Medical College, and; the State of Uttarakhand, to take necessary and permanent measures to prohibit ragging through out the Higher Educational Institutions (imparting education of graduation, post graduation and professional courses) so that barbaric type rapping does not occur in future in any higher educational institution of the State.”

                   To put things in perspective, the Division Bench then envisages in para 2 that, “The trigger for filing the present public interest litigation is the act of ragging of several 1st year MBBS students, studying at the respondent No. 4, Sushila Tiwari Government Medical College, Haldwani, which came to light, upon its reporting in the ‘Times of India’ on 06.03.2022.”

                            As it turned out, the Division Bench then enunciates in para 3 that, “The petitioner also seeks a direction to respondent Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5 to strictly comply with the provisions of the UGC Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009, and the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Civil Appeal No. 887 of 2009 on 08.05.2009, and the judgment of the Supreme Court in University of Kerala Vs Council of Principals of Colleges in Kerala and others, (2009) 15 SCC 301, and Vishwa Jagriti Mission, through its President Vs Central Government through Cabinet Secretary and others, (2001) 6 SCC 577.”

            Do note, the Division Bench then notes in para 4 that, “A perusal of the aforesaid Regulations shows that the responsibility for preventing and curbing the activity of ragging, defined in Regulation 3, has been cast on the Head of the Institution, which term is also defined in Regulation 4(1)(g), to mean – the Vice-Chancellor, in case of a university or a deemed to be university, the Principal or the Director, or such other designation as the executive head of the institution or the college may have. These Regulations lay down the steps that the Head of the Institution is required to take in Regulation 7. In each institution, an Anti-Ragging Committee is required to be nominated and headed by the Head of the Institution, which consists of representatives of civil and police administration, local media, Non Government Organizations involved in youth activities, representatives of faculty members, representatives of parents, representatives of students belonging to the freshers’ category, as well as senior students, non-teaching staff; and such committees should have a diverse mix of membership in terms of levels as well as gender.”

                       While continuing in the same vein, the Division Bench then further hastens to add in para 5 stating that, “Every University is also required to constitute a Monitoring Cell on ragging, which shall coordinate with the affiliated colleges and Institutions under the domain of the University to achieve the objectives of these Regulations. That apart, a District Level Anti-Ragging Committee is required to be constituted by the State Government to be headed by the District Magistrate for the control and elimination of ragging in institutions, within the jurisdiction of the District.”

                               As we see, the Division Bench then points out in para 6 that, “Only respondent No. 4 has filed its counter-affidavit in the present petition. From the same, it appears that, in relation to the incident, taken note of hereinabove, one FIR has been registered against unknown persons, on the basis of the complaint made by Assistant Warden, Male Hostel-I, which is neither here, nor there.”

                                 Most damningly, the Division Bench then minces just no words to lay bare in para 7 observing that, “Learned counsel submits that in the following year, the very same students, who were subjected to ragging, as reported in the ‘Times of India’ have themselves resorted to ragging. Thus, it is seen that the activity of ragging is perpetuated by each successive batch, as if to take revenge for the torment that they have been subjected to, by their seniors.”

                             Most significantly, what forms the cornerstone of this notable judgment is then encapsulated in para 8 wherein the Division Bench minces just no words in directing so very commendably that, “We direct all the respondent authorities, i.e., respondent Nos. 1, 2, 3, 5 and 7 to file their respective affidavits. Respondent No. 5 shall disclose in its affidavit the particulars of each and every institution in the State imparting education at graduate, post graduate, and professional level, and shall collect information from all such institutions with regard to the constitution of the Anti-Ragging Committee at the institutional levels. The State Government shall also collect information from the head of the institutions-whether, they are strictly complying with aforesaid Regulations, or not. The information so collected shall be placed before this Court by the State Government in a tabulated form, indicating the status of compliance/non-compliance by the institutions. The State Government should also disclose, whether, or not, the District Level Committees have been constituted. If not constituted, the same should be constituted within the next two weeks. The respondent Nos. 1, 2 and 3 are directed to collect information from institutions over which they exercise supervision, to collect information with regard to the constitution of the Monitoring Cell, and all such information should also be provided by the said respondents in tabulated form before this Court.”

                        No less significant is what is then mandated in para 9 wherein the Division Bench directs in strict, simple and straightforward language that, “We put the heads of all graduate level, post graduate level, and professional institutions in the State to notice, that non-compliance of the aforesaid Regulations shall be viewed seriously, and the head of the institution concerned, wherever acts of ragging are found to be occurring shall be held responsible. This order shall be communicated to all heads of institutions by the respondent State within two weeks.”

                              Adding more to it, the Division Bench then further directs in para 10 that, “The affidavits be filed within the next six weeks.”

                           Finally, the Division Bench concludes by holding in para 11 that, “List the matter on 06.06.2023.”

 All said and done, it is most heartening to note that the Uttarakhand High Court has in this leading case taken the most strictest stand on the most despicable, derogatory and derisive trend of ragging in higher educational institutions which is increasing so very rapidly in our country. We can afford to take it lightly only at the cost of our own peril and it is the students future who gets ragged which suffers the most due to occurring of such reprehensible ragging incidents which cannot certainly be allowed to be condoned under any circumstances. There has to be zero tolerance for such ragging incidents so that it can serve as an effective deterrent.

                                   It is a no-brainer that the students join colleges to study and definitely they don’t join to just indulge in ragging or to get ragged. The necessary and permanent measures that the Uttarakhand High Court has directed in this noteworthy judgment to prohibit ragging throughout the higher educational institutions so that it does not get repeated in the future must be most strictly implemented as directed. If strictest action is taken against all those who indulge in ragging then no one can dare to indulge in ragging.

                       Undoubtedly, the real nub of the problem lies in that those who indulge in ragging and that too ragging of the worst kind which includes physical violence and yet they get away very easily unpunished and without being held accountable for what they did in most of the cases! That is the real rub! If such students are punished most strictly then definitely no student will ever dare to do such an unpardonable act and if they do then must be made to pay the price.

                     It must also be certainly reiterated that it is not just students only but even the heads of the higher educational institutions where such reprehensible incidents of ragging occurs who are always aware of such reprehensible incidents and yet it is found that they always try to hush up the matter in some way or the other so that the name of the institution does not get tarnished and so they too must be definitely held responsible as has been held also so very commendably, cogently and convincingly in this leading case. Only then will the right and strong message percolate down the line that no one will be ever spared if an incident of ragging happens anywhere in any of the higher educational institutions. This is what is also the crying need of the hour also! This is exactly what the Uttarakhand High Court has also sought to most strictly convey in no unmistakable terms as we have already discussed hereinabove quite in detail! Of course, there can be no gainsaying that all that is needed now in such ragging cases is its most strictest and so also most promptest implementation as directed by Uttarakhand High Court!

Sanjeev Sirohi

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