NEW DELHI: The Jawaharlal Nehru University Teachers Association has raised serious objections, in writing, to the new practice introduced by the Vice Chancellor Professor M.Jagadesh Kumar whereby meetings with the faculty are now being videographed by security men.

In a strongly worded letter JNUTA has reminded the VC of the democratic principles guiding the functioning of the university and questioning what the faculty sees as a departure from established norms and procedure.

A copy of the letter sent by JNUTA to the VC is now with The Citizen. It reads:

5 November, 2016

Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar
Vice Chancellor,
Jawaharlal Nehru University

Subject: Legal violations regarding unauthorized data collection by JNU

Dear Professor Kumar,

Members of the JNUTA Executive Council met with you and University officials on 27 October in the evening to discuss the continued disappearance of Najeeb and the University’s actions in this regard. Personnel from the JNU Security Office were present at this meeting and recorded the entire proceedings in that meeting.

JNUTA was surprised at their presence and this act of recording the proceedings without taking prior informed consent from JNUTA. Prior to this all meetings between JNUTA and VC office have not been videographed in order to ensure that people speak as individuals, express their views since it encourages free discussion and facilitates resolution of issues.

Prior information and discussion on any departure from this practice and adoption of new practices such as recording should have been given and initiated by the VC office. We are disappointed at the utter lack of propriety in conduct and action by the VC office.

We would like to bring to your attention the following legal issues with regard to data collection in India:

1. Right to privacy is part of the Right to life and personal liberty as enshrined in Article 21 of the Constitution of India. (PUCL v Union of India (1997) 1 SCC 301).

2. Privacy and dignity of human life has always been considered fundamental human rights of every human being, like any other key values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech. Therefore every act which offends of impairs human dignity tantamount to deprivation protanto of his right to live and the State action must be in accordance with reasonable, fair and just procedure, established by law which stands the test of other fundamental rights. (Ramlila Maidan Incident, In re, (2012) 5 SCC 1)

3. The Information Technology Act, 2000 provides for civil liability (compensation) and criminal penalty in case of theft of data, trespass and unauthorized digital copying and privacy violations.

4. Aggrieved person can get compensation under Section 43 of the Information Technology Act, 2000 in case of unauthorized disclosure of personal information of third parties.

5. Section 403 and 405 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 provides for criminal penalty for dishonest misappropriation of moveable property and criminal breach of trust respectively.

Under Indian law, JNU is therefore legally liable for the following:

Take prior informed (written) consent from all participants before making any video/audio recordings of private meetings

Share (immediately) unedited footage of such recordings with all participants

Adopt data privacy policy clearly laying down purpose limitation, security of data, rights of access, restrictions on onward transfers, etc.

We again reiterate that the act of video recording in the absence of express written consent from JNUTA (on 27 October 2016) amounts to a legal violation and we would therefore request to take urgent action to rectify the situation.

We request you to immediately share with us the unedited footage of the video recording of the private meeting between JNUTA and VC held on 27 October 2016.

Your response in writing after taking necessary action would be appreciated in this regard. It may be noted that in the event of unauthorized disclosure of the video recording the aggrieved party (here JNUTA) reserves right to seek legal remedies.

We look forward to your cooperation in this regard.

Best Regards,

(Ajay Patnaik), President JNUTA
(Bikramaditya Choudhary)Secretary, JNUTA

JNUTA sent a second letter to the Vice Chancellor taking him on for “a bundle of lies”, making it clear that all Associations of the University including the faculty and students had been more than cooperative and that his allegations to the contrary were not acceptable.

The letter, a copy of which is with The Citizen reads:

5 November,2016

Prof. M. Jagadesh Kumar
Vice Chancellor,
Jawaharlal Nehru University

Dear Professor Kumar,

JNUTA is not surprised to see the “Appeal” by the University on 3rd November, which is nothing but an open threat and a bundle of baseless assertions. While, JNUTA was waiting for a reply of its letter submitted to you on 27th October with three genuine demands, the Administration chose to vilify JNUTA in contravention of its own earlier statement in which it has appreciated JNUTA. It is clear that JNU Administration keeps changing its stance for reasons best known to it and leaves no stone unturned to intimidate and provoke elected bodies of JNU, though unsuccessfully.

The three Associations, JNUTA, JNUSA and JNUSU wanted to meet you and submit a memorandum with request to maintain peace in campus, conduct an impartial inquiry and expedite the inquiry process, you chose not to meet us. While we were going out of your office (4.30 PM) a letter, rather irrelevant under the circumstances, was handed over to us detailing the norms of the University. Meeting the Associations of different stakeholders and listening to them would surely not harm the cause of the university rather it will help in building confidence with the communities.

We request you to take every institution in the university on board rather than isolating them and branding them as non-co-operative. JNUTA expects at least a response from your good office to the letter it submitted on 27th October.

Best Regards,

(Ajay Patnaik)President, JNUTA
(Bikramaditya Choudhary) Secretary, JNUTA