NEW DELHI: In what is a victory for the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University who have stood steadfast for their demands for nine long months now, the Delhi High Court in its interim order has asked the JNU varsity to register students for the new academic semester on the basis of the old hostel manual which was functional before October 28, 2019.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher also stated that the students who had not yet registered would not be charged late fees. They have been allotted one week to finish their registration formalities.

The Judge announced this decision after the first hearing of the petition filed by Jawaharlal Nehru University’s Students’ Union (JNUSU). It included Aishe Ghosh (The President of JNUSU) and other office bearers like Satish Chandra Yadav, Saket Moon and Md Danish. The petition was filed on January 22, 2020.

The sudden fee-hike and change of hostel manual had galvanised massive protests against the JNU administration by the students for three months. It was also termed against the JNU Act, 1966, Statutes, Ordinances and the Hostel Manual.

The plea was filed through lawyer Abhik Chimni who was assisted by his junior colleagues Aman Shukla, Mayank Goyal and Aarti.

“JNU has been a unique case. Till now, JNUSU has not filed any Public Interest Litigation (PIL). In the court of law, we did not adopt the activist framework while applying our case. We focused on the main issue of how was the sudden fee-hike decision made? JNUSU was not properly notified. The Executive Council ratified the amendments without power and dialogue. There were several procedural violations. So, the real attack was the process adopted,” lawyer Abhik Chimni told The Citizen.

“For the students who have already registered, the court order would protect their rights in availing hostel as well those rights guaranteed by the reserved category rules,” he further explained.

Senior Advocate Akhil Sibal had argued the case on behalf of the petitioners and contended that the decision-making process with regards to the hostel fee-hike was not done in the presence of student representation.

“The JNUSU is grateful to the Honourable High Court for granting this relief. We wish to appeal to the student community to take registration at old rates within the next week. We also wish to inform the administration that we have always been open for dialogue. The struggle against the regressive hostel manual and 28/10/2019 Inter-Hall Administration’s (IHA) meeting will continue,” stated the JNUSU Legal update on January 24, 2020.

“Congratulations to the entire JNU community for this major victory in their battle against fee hike. Now, the struggle has to go on till the removal of this shameless VC,” tweeted Umar Khalid, ex-JNU student.

The Additional Solicitor General, Pinky Anand, had requested the Judge to reject this plea by JNUSU on the grounds that 90% of the students had already registered.

The source of this claim remains debatable.

“The way the IHA Manual was passed was illegal. Even the line of argument of the administration that they lack funds is not only illogical but also goes against the principle of public funded education. I think both the things have been validated by the court’s judgement,” N. Sai Balaji, ex JNUSU President told the Citizen.

“The salaries of the contractual staff need not be paid by the students in a public funded university. Government should find money for it. This is a significant victory for students who have fought for three valiant months but also for thousands of lakhs and crores of people who stood in support of JNU,” he further reiterated.

Meanwhile, the Court has also issued a notice to the University Grants Commission and Ministry of Human Resource Development.

“Now UGC, MHRD and JNU Administration need to file their response to the court order. On the second hearing on February 28, the Court would hear UGC’s stand on funds, the discussion between JNUSU and MHRD that recently took place and JNU administration’s concerns,” Abhik Chimni explained.

The Court also objected to the recent introduction of Economic Weaker Section/Below Poverty Line category in the newly introduced hostel manual. No explanation of how these categories would be validated, stated the Court.

The JNU Administration has also been asked by the Court to hold a dialogue process with the student body.

Even though the primary barrier has been dealt with, the response of UGC, MHRD and JNU administration is essential for the next hearing and its implications.