Law College violence

Published : Sep 11, 2009 00:00 IST

DR AMBEDKAR LAW College, Chennai. It saw violent clashes between student groups on November 12, 2008.-V. GANESAN

DR AMBEDKAR LAW College, Chennai. It saw violent clashes between student groups on November 12, 2008.-V. GANESAN

It will take a long time for the academic community in Tamil Nadu to recover from the shock generated by the violent clashes between two groups of students on the campus of Dr. Ambedkar Law College in Chennai on November 12, 2008.

However, the general feeling is that the implementation of some of the recommendations of the one-man inquiry commission, appointed by the State government and headed by retired judge of the Madras High Court, P. Shanmugam, will address the problems that led to the violence. The government has announced its decision to accept the commissions findings and recommendations. The commission submitted these after visiting the college and hostel and examining 18 prosecution witnesses and six defence witnesses.

By stressing the need for curbing the activities of the caste-based organisations in the law college and hostel, the commission has hit the bulls eye. It has criticised the police for not taking preventive measures despite requests from the college authorities. Several of the commissions suggestions to improve the image of legal education in the State have been widely welcomed.

Referring to the animosity generated by community-based ill-feelings between Dalit students and students belonging to Mukkulathor community, a backward class, the commission observed: At least eight serious criminal cases of group clash are pending against leaders and others of these groups without any progress. Three disciplinary proceedings taken by the college authorities are also pending against them without any result. Generally the offenders complete the course and leave the college without any consequences for their actions.

The report traced the starting point of the present clash to the omission of Dr. Ambedkar in the college name as it appeared in posters allegedly pasted by Mukkulathor students in connection with the birth anniversary celebrations of the late Muthuramalinga Thevar.

The commission said that the law college and the hostel lacked an academic atmosphere. This formed the main setting for the clash, it said.

Criticising the police for inaction and failure to prevent armed students from entering the college premises, the panel suggested that appropriate departmental proceedings should be initiated against three police officers Assistant Commissioner of Police (High Court Range) K. Narayanamoorthy, Inspector of Esplanade Police Station M. Sekar Babu and Sub-Inspector E. Perumal for the various acts of commissions and omissions.

The general secretary of the State unit of the All India Lawyers Union, K. Elango, has commended the commission for seeking a ban on caste-based organisations and their activities in any form in the college campus and on the hostel premises. It has suggested that there must be a permanent committee consisting of the principal and senior professors to sort out students problems.

He also welcomed the commissions suggestions on enhancing the staff strength of the college and maintaining a student-teacher ratio of 40:1; increasing the teaching hours to four hours; and constituting separate departments for the various branches of law, each with its own head. The recommendations for enhancing facilities at the library, hostel, playground and training centre, besides promoting sports and cultural activities among students, also won the appreciation of the academic community, he said.

However, Elango insisted that recommendations such as relocating the undergraduate college within Chennai city by opening at least three law colleges in and around the city and giving up the three-year course for a semester-based system would not help in preventing violence. On the commissions recommendation with regard to admitting students to the hostel, he said that a vast majority of the residents were Dalits at present and the college administration could not compel students belonging to other communities to join the hostel.

K.S. Kanakaraj, secretary of the Tamil Nadu unit of the Students Federation of India (SFI), said the campus violence could have been averted if the government took necessary steps to improve the academic atmosphere in the college. The SFI held a rally in September 2007 and submitted a memorandum to the Law Minister stressing the need for urgent measures in this regard. He also called for revamping the syllabus and hostel facilities for students of all the law colleges in the State. The undergraduate college should not be moved out of the High Court campus, he said, adding that its continuance at the present ven

S. Durairaj
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