“In addition to pursuing politics, I wanted to teach. I have already missed a few deadlines because I have to wait for another year. I had submitted my thesis and only my viva was pending,” said Lokesh Chugh, 30, one of the two Delhi University (DU) students who was debarred for a year over his alleged involvement in the screening of the BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots earlier this year.
On 24 May, the Delhi HC told the University to respond to his petition that accuses DU of not letting him submit his thesis despite the court order in April.
Justice Purushaindra Kumar Kaurav, who had earlier quashed the debarment order in April, issued notice on Chugh’s plea and sought response of DU and other authorities on 23 May. The matter has now been listed for hearing on 17 July.
The Quint spoke to the scholar and his lawyers about how his future is at stake due to the debarment, and how no action has been taken even after the HC quashed the order.
Meanwhile, a DU spokesperson said, "The matter is sub-judice in court. We will wait for the next hearing and take action accordingly."
‘Have Completed My Thesis but No Response from Univ’: Chugh
Chugh, a Ph. D. scholar at DU’s Department of Anthropology, filed a writ petition on 11 April this year. The argument put forward in the petition was that he was not given an opportunity to put forth his views before the disciplinary committee. Six other students were asked to submit a written apology while he was debarred for a year.
On 27 January, a few students' associations had planned to screen the BBC documentary on the 2002 Gujarat riots. The students were not granted permission and a few students were even detained by the Delhi police. In the meantime, DU formed a committee to look into the matter.
On 10 March, Chugh received a notice from the proctor’s office, stating that the disciplinary authority has decided to “impose penalty of debarring him from taking any university or college or departmental examinations for one year”.
Chugh’s claim is that he had submitted his thesis ‘Somatoscopic and Somatometric Variation in Human Ear: A Study among North Indian Population,’ on 3 March, even before the order from the Proctor’s office was issued.
He had received a scholarship to pursue his Ph.D. and had scored 78.6 percent in his M.Phil.
A resident of Delhi, he had completed his undergraduate studies and his masters from Karnataka. Despite the court order, he said "I still feel hopeless..."
There were three or four vacancies such as those of guest professors and lecturers in universities across the country. After completing my Ph.D, I would have applied for them but I was unable to because my Ph.D has not been accepted yet and my viva is pendingLokesh Chugh
He said, “I have reached out to authorities about my thesis but I have been told that nothing can be done about it until there are orders from the University...”
He added, “I explained the incident to my parents but they have a lot of queries, and I am not able to answer them. They are both in their 60s and I am their only child... They wanted me to settle down by now.”
The writ petition stated, “The petitioner has been running from pillar to post in an attempt to submit his Ph.D. thesis to the University of Delhi, however, there has been no response (that) has been received from the respondents. The respondents are trying to thwart the petitioner by being vague, unresponsive, and enforcing a decision that has been set aside by this Hon’ble Court.”
'The Move is Politically Motivated': Lawyer
Chugh has been involved in campus politics for a few years and was the national secretary and media in-charge of NSUI. Chugh claimed that he was not at the site of the protest and was merely giving a media byte at the time. "I was not asked to submit an apology. And even if I had to, I know that I did not do anything wrong. I was merely giving a media byte. I had written to the Vice-Chancellor telling him that this is my university, I know how to maintain decorum in the university...”
The petition stated, “The petitioner, in his capacity as national secretary and media in-charge of National Students Union of India (“NSUI”), was invited by mediapersons outside the Faculty of Arts Campus, University of Delhi, for giving his views on the ongoing student protests/screening of the BBC documentary.”
Naman Joshi, his advocate, said,
The order came in April and the debarment was set aside by the Delhi HC. Why then is the University being this obstinate?Naman Joshi, Lokesh Chugh's advocate
Claiming that the move is ‘biased’, Joshi said, “He is a meritorious student who completed his Ph.D in three years. The University should not hold a political vendetta against him. He is a student after all.”