Himachal Singh, who is a fourth year PhD Scholar at IIT Guwahati has had to sign an undertaking that prevents him from taking part in any protest/dharna/agitation, if he wants to return to his post in the university.
Last year, students protested the compulsory retirement of Brajesh Rai, from the Dept. of Electronics and Electrical Engineering. Singh participated in a hunger strike, along with a fellow student, from January 4-7, 2020. Singh faced “suspended academic expulsion” for one semester as a result.
Rai was an Assistant Professor of the Electronics and Electrical Engineering Department. He was served a showcause notice on November 1, 2019 by the Board of Governors. This was part of a a two-year-old inquiry against him in a case regarding an ISRO funded project. Rai had alleged that there was “corruption in the staff recruitment” for the project, in 2017.
Rai was charged with misconduct and was forced to resign on January 1st 2020 as he was supposedly trying to defame the members of the institute.
For Singh’s case, on March 16 2020, a 10-member disciplinary committee gave Singh an “suspended academic expulsion” for one semester. This type of suspension is not enforced until the university decides to do so, till then it is set aside. Singh was also suspended from the position of general secretary of the hostel affairs board.
On March 8 Professor S M Suresh who is the registrar of the university, sent him a letter stating that he would be allowed to return only if he signed an undertaking that listed six conditions.
“I shall neither take part in any form of agitation/ protest/ dharna inside or outside campus nor mobilise students for the same,” said the undertaking. “I shall not post any messages in the social media platforms which will prove to be detrimental to the academic ambience of the Institute,” it said.
The undertaking also included an apology to the institute and claimed that Singh was “falsifying information”. According to the undertaking, any violation of its terms, would result in expulsion prior notice.
Singh approached the Guwahati High Court, asking to quash the matter. The petition highlighted Singh’s intentions when he protested and stated in was in the name of protecting justice, fairness, and truth. “Thereby he sat on the hunger strike and his intention was noble and in good interest. He wanted his institute to grow and develop in a positive direction and a custodian of justice, fairness and truth.” Sources have reported however, that Singh had signed the undertaking last month as he had already missed out on almost a years time from his work.