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Saturday, 29 August 2020

Punjab and Haryana High Court dismisses Panjab University appeal

Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, August 28

Less than a month after Panjab University was rapped for trying to curb the freedom of speech and expression of an "uncomfortable Senator who often questioned the authorities", a Division Bench of the Punjab and Haryana High Court today dismissed in limine an appeal filed by the university.

The appeal, running into approximately 275 pages, filed by Panjab University and other appellants was placed before the Bench of Justice Daya Chaudhary and Justice Meenakshi I Mehta this morning. The Bench refused to intervene in the matter while dismissing the appeal on the threshold.

The case has its genesis in a petition filed against the university and other respondents by Munish Pal Singh, alias Munish Verma, through counsel Pankaj Jain. He was seeking quashing of an order dated December 20, 2019, whereby his name was removed from register of graduates.

Appearing before the Single Bench of Justice Fateh Deep Singh, the university had submitted the petitioner was guilty of misconduct in the process of holding annual examination for 2014. He committed a lapse and tarnished the university's image, stated the university.

Jain, on the other hand, had contended action against the petitioner could be attributed to his activism. He had blown the whistle regarding certain major and important issues pertaining to the PU and its budget. Describing it as primary cause of his victimisation, Jain contended the petitioner gave a dissenting note on the university budget for 2015-2016 in the Senate on March 29, 2015. It was accompanied by a complaint to the PU Chancellor. He, in turn, had ordered an inquiry.

Jain had added the process was nothing but a sinister design woven by the authorities to ensure that "the action against the petitioner was of such nature so as to resist his election to Senate in future."

Referring to the petitioner's whistleblower stand, Justice Fateh Deep Singh had observed it was never satisfactorily refuted in the pleadings of the respondents that he was an uncomfortable Senator, who often questioned the authorities keeping in view large interest of the university. The inquiry was initiated on his stand by the Chancellor and was still pending. As such, it was nothing but a device brought about with "this sole purpose".

Alluding to transcriptions prepared by the petitioner from a DVD obtained under the RTI, Justice Fateh Deep Singh had asserted the Court examined the dialogue during the meeting between various persons, including the Vice-Chancellor.

The Bench had asserted: "Rather what ensues of this un-rebutted document is that the authorities were in undue haste to accomplish their designs to ensure that the petitioner is thrown out of the Senate by all ways and means. What one can concur is that the respondent authorities perturbed over the conduct of the petitioner are trying to curb freedom of speech and expression guaranteed under Article 19 to the petitioner."

from The Tribune

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