Aligarh Muslim University has always been in controversy for a very long time mostly for jeopardizing the personal liberty. I have read somewhere “that education is the most powerful weapon for changing the world” and that usually colleges and schools are the centres of learning that plays a very important role in shaping the mind of students, empowering them to develop their own identity, thinking, beliefs, thoughts and ideas, making them believe that they are free to learn and grow and no one will ever clip their wings.
But the Aligarh Muslim University has always acted in contrary to the above philosophies. Not one, but there are many instances where the University has interfered with the personal liberty of not only its students but also its professors thus, clipping their wings every time the students have tried to establish their individual existence in contrary of the University’s orthodox thinking.
After the great controversy of Jinnah’s portrait issue hanging in the University walls and reservation issues, I started reading more about the university and I read that in 2013 a controversy had erupted in the University, after the University issued rules and regulations interfering with the rights of the students thus restricting their right to dress and thus violating their right of personal liberty.
The controversy arose when a circular consisting of rules and regulations regarding the dressing style was put up in a girl’s hostel, Abdullah Hall, which advised students to wear “decent clothes” like salwar kameez and not to carry mobile phones.
According to the clarification given by Aligarh Muslim University authorities, they argued that “We have no intention whatsoever of specifying any dress code and neither did the above circular do so. All that we have sought is, that students including girls should be in decent attire which reflects the ethos of our society”.
It was also added, “ever since a new administration assumed charge at AMU about a year back, we are leaving no stone unturned to modernise and revitalise the entire edifice of this historic institution.
Now far this statement or justification is true is highly again debatable because according to many sources the rules and regulations also contained the provisions like wearing the black sherwani is mandatory in all the official functions. So, this actually meant that if you don’t wear black sherwani you were not allowed to attend the official function. AMU will call it exaggeration of the matter and interpreting in their rules in wrong sense but then this is what can be clearly implied from their use of words like “decent dressing” and “wearing black sherwani”. Well, also what can be interpreted from such rules and regulations is that they are inspired from Wahabi ideology and it is no doubt that Aligarh Muslim university can be considered as a centre of fundamentalists, anti-women and anti-progressive ideologies.
And this is not the first time that the university has issued such guidelines even in the year 2012 the AMU came to highlight for banning the wearing of jeans and shirts for girl students. Also, according to the girl’s hostel rules, girls were not allowed to go outside the hostel or their rooms without wearing dupatta and during the time of any function girls were not allowed to perform a dance, while such limitations were put only on girl students and not on boys.
Though later both the times the administration was forced to withdraw such rules and regulations because of strong student’s as well as public opinion against it. But then such rules and guidelines just show even after so many years of independence, some group or rather university wants to encroach on the personal liberty of an individual and that too mostly women.
When such rules and regulations are tested on the litmus of our fundamental rights the result is always negative. As such rules not only violate section 21 that is Right to life and personal liberty but also various other fundamental rights of an individual.
For instance, the above rules and regulations violate the following fundamental rights of women: –
The article states equality before law and equal protection of law. This in simple sense means all individuals irrespective of their rank, nationality, creed is equal in the eyes of law and therefore the law should treat everyone equally.
And issuing of such circulars are discriminatory against the women and thus in violating article 14 of the Indian constitution of girl students of that university.
- Article 15(1)
The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them.
- Article 15(3)
Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children.
- Article 21
Protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.
And right to choose what to wear definitely comes under the right to personal liberty.
- Article 51A(e)
The article states that it is the duty of every citizen to renounce practices which are derogatory to the dignity of the women.
These were the recent rules and regulations, which was issued by the university and was later scraped down by the administration. But then there are still some rules that are still implemented and are also violative of the fundamental rights of women like: –
- Women are restricted from going out of the hostel after 6 pm even if it is under the lame justification that it is for their safety only. But still this rule violates article 14, 15, 21 and most importantly article 19(1)(d), which states that every person has the right to move freely within the territories of India subject to reasonable restrictions but then such restrictions are not at all reasonable because boys are not debarred from going out after 6 pm just like their female fellow mates
- Aligarh Muslim University has Asia’s largest library Maulana Azad library, which opens till the 12.00 at night but Hostel girls are not allowed to go outside the hostel after the evening.
Right to privacy
There have been protests and marches for women to have the right to clothing their own bodies without it being seen as a sign to be violated. The right to privacy brings this freedom to all those who do not want to have their wardrobe dictated by the authorities.
Also, such rules violate UNITED NATION’S Article 1 of Universal Declaration on Human Rights, 1948. Article 1 states that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reasons and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.”
Well, now it can be clearly construed that the university still follows and is run by orthodox ideologies and concepts as once was written by a student of AMU that if any girls wear Hijab and lives according to the ideology of bigots group than you are very good and Islam lover otherwise you are anti AMU and characterless.
This was just one recent instance of violation of personal liberty. There was a case SR Siras v. Aligarh Muslim University, High Court at Allahabad, India (1 April 2010) where personal liberty and a right of privacy was violated by the Aligarh Muslim University and the Supreme court ruled against the AMU.
Facts of the case are as follows
The petitioner filed a writ petition in the Allahabad High Court, challenging the orders issued against him by Aligarh Muslim University on the grounds that they violated his constitutional rights.
The petitioner was a reader and chair of the Department of Modern Indian Languages of Aligarh Muslim University. He was living in campus and awaiting promotion to professor prior to his retirement. In February 2010, some members of the press broke into his quarters in the campus and filmed him having sex with a male partner.
University personnel arrived on the scene and examined the video footage. The Vice-Chancellor of the University placed the petitioner under suspension.
He was accused of indulging in “immoral sexual activity … in contravention of basic moral ethics” while living in University housing and thereby undermining the “pious image” of the academic community. The petitioner replied to the charge sheet but at the same time decided to file a writ petition against the measures adopted by the University.
Whether the petitioner’s suspension from his teaching position and his removal violated his rights to privacy liberty and equality?
The petitioner stated that no complaint of indecent behaviour or misconduct had been made against him at any time. In reply to the charges, he admitted being gay and said that he had never hidden his sexual orientation. According to him, his sexual orientation was not any person’s concern and the right to privacy and the right to equality under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India protected what he did in the privacy of his home.
Furthermore, the petitioner maintained that both the media and university personnel had entered his flat without his consent and had therefore intruded into his privacy in violation of Article 21 of the Constitution. He also submitted that Article 14 and 16 of the Constitution guaranteed equality to all persons, regardless of their sexual orientation, and prohibited discrimination on such ground. Moreover, according to the petitioner, any act done in the privacy of a person’s home, which did not affect his employment, did not amount to misconduct subject to departmental inquiry and persecution.
The Court further stated that the petitioner was justified in stating that an adult’s sexual preference may not amount to misconduct, especially given the circumstances in which the fact was discovery (in violation of the right to privacy). It affirmed that privacy was a fundamental right that needed protection and that, in any case, the allegations made against the petitioner would require a strict standard of proof if they were to fall within the definition of immorality and amount to misconduct.
As an interim measure (while the petitioner’s appeal to the Executive Council against the suspension order was pending), the Court ordered a stay of both the order and the petitioner’s removal from his campus accommodation. It also restrained the media from publishing any material on the incident.
Though many readers might think why to dig out matters which are 4 to 5 years old but I genuinely think that even after the circular was withdrawn still we can see the influence of the circular, their ideology even today. There are still many unreasonable restrictions imposed by the university. Its high time that university should change its ideology and while choosing between or in case of conflict between liberty and orthodox thinking that the university opts for liberty and modern ideology. Kudos!!! To all the students of the university who had raised voice against the injustice and willing to raise voice against injustice for restoring and preserving their rights and liberty.
By Deeksha Kathyat
Dr. D.Y. PATIL COLLEGE OF LAW
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