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Anjitha K. Jose v. State of Kerala (2019) : case analysis

This article is written by Avneet Kaur. The article discusses various aspects of the case of Anjitha K. Jose v. State of Kerala, a contemporary landmark judgement wherein the scope of an institution’s management to impose instructions upon the students was discussed. 

It has been published by Rachit Garg.

Introduction 

The right to equality is a significant principle which ensures that all individuals regardless of their gender are treated fairly and equally. In the context of female students and their rights in educational institutions, it is implied that they should have the same opportunities, privileges and freedoms as their male counterparts. This may include equal access to education, equal treatment in terms of rules and regulations and equal protection from any form of harassment or discrimination. The recognition by the Kerala High Court in the case of Anjitha K. Jose v. State of Kerala (2019), that girls should have equal freedom as boys has proven to be a significant step towards upholding their right to equality.

This case deals with the question of infringement of rights of hostel boarders especially female students by the hostel code of conduct of an educational institution in the state of Kerala. The court recognized that female students have the same freedom as the male students and that the regressive moral value standards of the management cannot be imposed on the students. It was accepted that a balance needs to be sought between the responsibilities and power of the management to ensure protection and discipline and the rights and freedom of the students. 

Details of Anjitha K. Jose v. State of Kerala (2019)

Name of the case: Anjitha K. Jose v. State of Kerala

Date of judgement: 21.02.2019

Type of case: Writ Petition (Civil)

Bench: Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque

Author of the Judgement: Justice A. Muhamed Mustaque

Equivalent citations:  WP(C). No. 14319 of 2018, 2019 (2) KHC 220 

Parties to the case:

  • Petitioner– Anjitha K. Jose, Rinsa Thasni M
  • Respondent– State of Kerala, University of Calicut, University Grants Commission, Principal Sree Kerala Varma College, Cochin Devaswom Board

Statutes and provisions involved

  • Constitution of India, 1950: Articles 14, 19, 32 and 226; 
  • University Grants Commission Regulations 2015

Facts of Anjitha K. Jose v. State of Kerala (2019)

The petitioners were the students enrolled in Sree Kerala Varma College, Thrissur. The college had arranged hostel services for both male and female students. For the maintenance of hostel discipline and the safety of students, the institution had issued some guidelines to be followed by the students. Some of these instructions were:

  • Hostel boarders should not remain in the hostel during college working hours without previous sanction.
  • No hostel boarder should take an active part in political meetings, procession or propaganda.
  • Boarders can attend pictures or other entertainment only on days notified by the warden and can not be permitted to go for first or second show pictures. 
  • Students are liable to suspension or dismissal from the hostel on grounds of mischievous, irregular, unpunctual or neglecting behaviour. 
  • Hostel students should not be permitted to go home on weekly holidays except in special cases with the permission of the warden. 

The students found the instructions to be unreasonable and approached the college management with their grievances but found no relief. The petitioners aggrieved by the guidelines then approached the court asserting that their rights were being subject to infringement. The petitioners challenged the guidelines by referring to clause 3.2 (13) of the University Grant Commission Regulations, 2015 (hereinafter mentioned as “UGC Regulations”) and also upon its discriminatory and curtailing nature. 

Issues raised in Anjitha K. Jose v. State of Kerala (2019)

  • Whether the management has complete right to impose any instruction for the achievement of objectives of the institution.
  • Whether the hostel instructions are violative of the fundamental rights of the students. 
  • Whether the challenged instructions are violative of clause 3.2 (13) of the UGC Regulations, 2015.

Arguments of the parties in Anjitha K. Jose v. State of Kerala (2019)

Petitioners

  • The petitioners contended that the instructions are discriminatory and against the freedom of women as they impose more severe restrictions on women citing their safety as reason and thereby, stifling their fundamental rights.
  • The students also urged that the return timing for hostel boarders which is 6:30 pm also needs to be refixed as it causes hardships to the students. 
  • The petitioners submitted that prohibition to take part in political meetings and related activities violates their right to political participation which is a significant measure to ensure public participation and democracy.
  • The petitioners argued that the hostel instructions are violative of clause 3.2 (13) of the UGC Regulations, 2015. The regulation states that discriminatory policies cannot be imposed on female hostel students in the name of safety concerns of women students. It also provides that over monitoring and curtailment of the freedom of female students should be prevented. 
  • The students contended that the management cannot impose moral restrictions upon the students and that the hostel curfew timings lead to inconvenience and abridge the freedom of movement of the students.
  • The petitioners also contended that dismissal from the hostel on grounds of irresponsible, unpunctual and negligent behaviour is not valid because the terms have not been clearly defined and explained. This leads to vagueness and creates room for arbitrary actions. 

Respondents

  • The respondents argued that the hostel instructions were duly signed and agreed to by the parents of the students, thereby an implied consent of the students can also be inferred to agree to be bound by such instructions. 
  • The respondents submitted that the instructions were only made by bearing in mind the concern of discipline, decorum and safety of the citizens. It is a protective and a welfare measure for the students. 
  • The respondents contended that the management holds certain rights to regulate the conditions of the institution by imposing instructions for students which would help in achieving progressive objectives. 
  • The college authority also submitted that the instructions made in regard to hostel borders were in accordance with the UGC Regulations, 2015 and did not lead to over surveillance or imposition. 
  • The respondents contended that the instructions are not discriminatory against female students but rather special measures to ensure added safeguards and protection. 

Legal aspects involved in Anjitha K. Jose v. State of Kerala (2019)

The key legal aspects involved in this case revolve around the encouragement of fairness and non discrimination in favour of female students. 

  • Right to equality

Article 14 of the Constitution of India incorporates the principle of equality before the law and the equal protection of laws. Every person has the right to be treated in the same manner as the other citizen in similar circumstances as is recognized by the court in this case. This means that no person should be subjected to unfair treatment or discrimination solely based on their gender. The right to freedom for girls is the same as boys. 

In a similar case of Kalyani Mathivanan v. KV Keyaraj and Ors (2015), it was established that women have the right to pursue higher education in the field of medicine and cannot be denied admission based on their marital status. This judgement played a crucial role in promoting gender equality.

Therefore, gender based guidelines or rules that overly scrutinise girls in hostels or any other setting go against the principle of fairness and equality enumerated under Article 14. 

  • Right to freedom 

The right to have and express political thoughts and feelings is part of one’s freedom of speech and expression and is guaranteed under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. Every citizen of India has the right to express such feelings by taking an active part in political meetings, propaganda or advocating for their preferred political agenda. This means that individuals have the right to voice their thoughts, ideas, and concerns regarding political matters without fear of censorship or reprisal. 

In the case of S.R Bommai v. Union of India (1994), it was recognized by the Supreme Court that political expression including expressing opinions and criticism of the government is an essential aspect of democratic governance and falls within the ambit of freedom of speech and expression. Therefore, this right goes beyond just casting a vote during elections. It encompasses the broader scope of political activism, fostering political consciousness and actively participating in shaping the political landscape of the country. 

Apart from that, Article 19 (1)(d) of the Constitution of India guarantees the right to freedom of movement as a fundamental right that allows individuals to move freely within the country and travel abroad. This right is a crucial aspect of personal liberty. However, it must be noted that these rights are not absolute and are subject to certain reasonable restrictions to maintain public order, protect the sovereignty of the nation and ensure the smooth functioning of a democratic society. 

  • Right to constitutional remedies

Articles 32 and 226 of the Constitution of India provide a right to every citizen to approach the court in the instance of any violation or breach of his or her fundamental rights as mentioned in Part III of the Constitution. This right provides a safeguard against possible abridgement of the rights of people and ensures enforcement of their rights. By providing individuals with the ability to seek legal recourse, these articles play a crucial role in upholding the principles of justice and equality.

In Students Islamic Organisation of India v. Union of India (2017), it was held by the Supreme Court that students have the right to approach the Court to seek redressal for any violation of their fundamental rights, ensuring that their voices are heard and grievances are addressed. These rights empower the citizens to challenge any action or law that may infringe upon their rights and seek redress through the judicial system. 

Issue-wise judgement in Anjitha K. Jose v. State of Kerala (2019)

Extent of right of the management to impose restrictions

The court held that the responsibility to maintain discipline in the institution falls upon the management, therefore, it also holds the supreme authority over this matter. The right to impose instructions and guidelines in the interest of security and decorum forms part of the right to administer and maintain educational institutions. The court recognized that students cannot domineer the management in matters over which the latter holds jurisdiction. 

In case of conflict between the rights of students and the management, the court recognized that the rights of the latter shall be upheld. However, it must be ensured that the measures imposed by the management are sought to achieve the objectives for which the power was conferred upon the management. If it is observed that the concerned measure has no correlation with the objective, then it can be struck as arbitrary. 

Validity of the instructions imposed upon students

The court ruled as follows with regard to the challenged instructions-

  • The court found the instructions with regard to the bar on remaining in the hostel during college hours without previous sanction to be justified and within the scope of the management. The court held that the hostel cannot be a shelter for students to remain away from college as it would encourage unpunctual and negligent behaviour. The court held that this instruction was valid and there was no scope for interference by the court. 
  • The bar on taking an active part in any political meeting, propaganda and agenda, was recognized by the court as unjustified and invalid. The court held that such guidelines had no correlation with the maintenance of discipline in the hostel premises. The right to hold political views is a part of the fundamental right to freedom of expression of every citizen under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. The court thereby, recognized this instruction as violative of the fundamental rights of petitioners and accordingly, struck it down.
  • While dealing with the instruction regarding attending movies and pictures on days notified by the warden, which further states that no boarder shall be permitted to go for first or second show pictures, the court recognized that an instruction of such nature implies the imposition of moral policing. Practices such as moral paternalism and policing are disapproved of and should not be reflected in the management’s work. It was also observed that no such restriction has been imposed in the boys’ hostel and the freedom of female students should be upheld in the same manner as the males. Watching movies or pictures is an activity that falls outside the domain of hostel activity and therefore, it shall be the choice of students as to whether they want to watch a first or second show picture. The regressive moral standards of the management cannot be imposed upon the students. However, the management can fix the time for the return of the students which should also be reasonable in order to maintain discipline in the hostel.
  • The instruction dealing with disciplinary action by the warden on grounds of mischievous, irregular, unpunctual and negligent conduct is justified and needs to be considered in the context of each case. If any person is aggrieved by any such action, then he or she is at liberty to approach the court against the same. Only such mischievous conduct which leads to a breach of hostel discipline shall call for the need for an action. Henceforth, the court found that this instruction is not subject to interference and shall depend upon the facts and circumstances of each case. 
  • Lastly, the court found that instruction preventing students from going home for weekly holidays except in special cases with the warden’s permission was valid. This instruction cannot be termed as arbitrary as it safeguards the interests of the students. If valid reasons are shown, then the warden has to grant permission.  In regard to the refixation of return timing, the court held that this decision shall be taken by the management and the principal while taking into account the hardships suffered by the students. 

The court rejected the contention of the respondent that the parents of the students had signed and agreed to the instructions by stating that since the petitioners are major, their right to question cannot be compromised on the basis of parental consent. The court held that the consent of parents in no case justifies the instructions to be violative of the fundamental rights of the students.  

Violation of clause 3.2 of the UGC Regulations, 2015

With regard to the violation of clause 3.2 (13) of the UGC Regulations 2015, the Court held that using the pretext of safety to impose unfair restrictions on women in hostels or any other areas of campus life shall not be allowed. Campus safety policies should focus on creating an environment where everyone feels safe and secure while also respecting the freedom and autonomy of women employees and students. The hostel guideline preventing students from going for first or second show pictures is violative of the UGC Regulations. Discriminatory rules that specifically target women or impose stricter regulations solely based on gender would also be in violation of the principle of equality and non discrimination. 

Rationale behind the judgement 

The rationale behind the judgement of the court is based on the notion that differential treatment against female students cannot be justified. The moral standards of the management cannot be used to look down upon the choices of the students. Any activity that falls outside the college premises shall be governed by the choice of the student and not the management. It is for the student to decide whether he or she wants to go for a first or second show picture or take part in political activities. 

The maintenance of discipline and decorum in the hostel shall not affect the personal choices of the students. Girls have the right to equal entitlement as boys. Any measure which does not have any nexus with maintaining discipline shall be struck down. This means that unnecessary restrictions or rules that don’t contribute to maintaining order should be eliminated. The judgement is a significant step towards creating an environment where students can freely exercise their personal choices without unnecessary interference. 

Significance of the judgement in Anjitha K. Jose v. State of Kerala (2019)

In the case of Faheema Shirin R.K v. State of Kerala (2019), the petitioner, a student of Sree Narayana Guru College Kozhikode challenged the expulsion order made against her based on the ground that she did not abide by the hostel regulation which prohibited students from using mobile phones and laptops from 10p.m to 6p.m and also approached the management to relax this rule. The Kerala High Court while giving the judgement relied on the judgement in Anjitha K. Jose v. State of Kerala (2019) and reiterated that restrictions should have a nexus with maintenance of discipline. There is no prima facie evidence to show that any indiscipline was caused by the use of a mobile phone by the petitioner. Therefore, the order of expulsion is arbitrary and unjustified. 

The Court observed that it is immaterial that no other student objected to the regulation. The regulation cannot be justified on this ground.  The management cannot decide for the students as to when they should or should not use mobile phones or for what purpose the mobile phones are used. The students have attained majority and therefore are conscious of what is right and wrong. It is a matter of personal choice for the students. The Court also declared the right to access the internet as a fundamental right. The only restriction which can be imposed is that the usage of mobile phones should not cause disturbance to other students or indiscipline on the campus. 

Hence, it is safe to say that the present case is a significant step as it upholds the rights of students to make their own choices and recognizes the importance of their personal freedom in educational institutions.

Conclusion

The judgement in this case helped in upholding the rights of women in higher educational institutions. The court emphasised that a balance needs to be achieved between the authority of the management to govern students and the protection of the rights of such students. The rights of the students cannot be overlooked in the name of the supreme authority of the management. However, the right of the management to administer and maintain the respective institutions shall also be recognized. The judgement helped in striking down the moral policing reflected in the actions of institutions and ensuring a fair atmosphere in educational institutions. It helped in acting as a significant step towards creating a more equitable and inclusive atmosphere in educational institutions where every student can thrive and feel respected. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What does clause 3.2 (13) of the UGC Regulations 2015 deal with?

Clause 3.2 (13) of the UGC Regulations, 2015 provides that concern for the safety of women must not be cited as a reason to impose discriminatory policies for female students in hostels as compared to the male students. Campus safety regulations should not result in over securitisation or over monitoring thereby, curtailing the right to freedom of movement of the students. 

What is the scope of the management’s power in an educational institution to impose restrictions upon students?

The management of an educational institution can only impose restrictions upon students in order to ensure campus safety, discipline and order. It cannot impose restrictions upon activities falling outside this domain.

What is moral policing with regard to educational institutions?

Moral policing in educational institutions refers to the practice of enforcing strict moral standards and regulating the behaviour of students based on subjective moral judgements. It often involves monitoring and disciplining students for actions or choices that are deemed immoral or against traditional norms. 

References

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The post Anjitha K. Jose v. State of Kerala (2019) : case analysis appeared first on iPleaders.