The tryst with the criminal justice system is often either ignored or taken lightly by students. They nurture an illusion that owing to their “student status” they might easily delude the authorities and obtain lenient sentences.
However, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India has adopted a “zero tolerance” stance against ragging. It has defined ragging as “any disorderly conduct whether by words spoken or written or by an act which has the effect of teasing, treating or handling with rudeness any junior student, indulging in rowdy or in disciplined activities which causes or is likely to cause annoyance, hardship or psychological harm or to raise fear or apprehension thereof in a fresher or a junior student or asking the student(s) to do any act or perform something which the student will not do in a ordinary course and which has the effect of causing or generating a sense of shame or embarrassment so as to adversely affect the physique or psyche of a fresher or a junior student.”
The above definition is wide enough to cover even milder forms of ragging. Hence, it would be self deceptive to believe that milder forms of ragging involving introductions with singing, dancing, proposing, etc. is acceptable. Even milder forms of ragging have the potential of generating a sense of shame or embarrassment in some students.
Some examples of different forms of ragging, among others, hit by the above stated definition are as follows:
1. Verbal and psychological abuse: It is defined as a conversation between the senior and fresher, without the consent of the latter, where the senior humiliates the fresher, forces him to answer questions which may be socially or personally unacceptable, abuses/teases/humiliates him/her, thereby portraying his/her superiority and leading to mental stress, uneasiness, or discomfort to the fresher.
2. Physical abuse: It is defined as an act by a senior toward the junior without the latter’s consent with the intention of causing physical injury to the fresher. Some examples are:
a) Beating the fresher
b) Pointing objects at the fresher with the knowledge that it may cause injury or causing actual injuries
c) Making the fresher to slap him/herself if he doesn’t do an act properly
d) Making the fresher drink or eat something, which he wouldn’t otherwise do
e) Take rounds if the college ground.
3. Sexual abuse: It is defined as an act by a senior, asking the junior to do something which may damage the sexual dignity of the junior. It simply means, doing an act of sexual nature with the junior or asking the junior to perform any such act in the presence of the perpetrator. Some examples are:
a) Strip down to bare essentials or even worse
b) Have unnatural sex
c) Masturbate in public
d) Touching of private parts; etc.
Duties of the Parents
a) Encourage the victim child: If your child has been a victim to ragging, it is important that you encourage him/her to share his feelings with you and to help him initiate any of the above actions. It is important that you do not treat ragging as “normal” and “accepted way of introduction” and you complaint against the same.
b) Follow up with the authorities: It is important that you constantly follow up with the authorities regarding the action that has been taken or is being taken, so as to give you an opportunity to lodge a complaint with alternative authority in case of inactivity by the concerned authority.
c) Discourage the act of ragging: If you hear or suspect your child to be involved in the crime of ragging, instruct him/her to discontinue and apologize to the victim, or if you suspect his/her future involvement in the same, discourage him/her to do so.
d) Help the educational institutions by signing undertaking: You should help the educational institutions by signing the undertaking at the time of admission of your child, that you undertake that your child will not indulge in the crime of ragging.
Duties of the Witnesses
If you have been a witness to an incident of ragging then you must do the following:
a) Support the Victim: If the victim is reluctant or somewhat scared in reporting the incident, then you must provide emotional, mental & most importantly moral support to him/her. You must persuade him/her to report the incident & assure him that action would be taken.
b) Report the Incident: As a witness to any crime, it’s your moral duty to report the crime. If you are a witness to an incident of ragging, then you must report it to either to the Police, or the college authority or an NGO in the manner provided above in the category of victims.
c) Support the trial: If you are a witness to an incident of ragging, it is important that you support the trial by being a prosecution’s witness and by helping the police with the investigations. Supporting a trial may appear to be a cumbersome process to some as it may involve numerous court visits, nonetheless, one must support and stand by the truth. It is important that the perpetrators do not go unpunished as then they would constitute consistent threat in the educational institutions and will set up bad examples of ragging trials thereby increasing the incidents of ragging.
Caution for the Perpetrators/ Seniors
The utmost disadvantage of ragging is to the doers themselves. Ragging is a crime and therefore attracts violation of various provisions of law. Simple Hurt, Grievous Hurt, Attempt to murder, Abatement to a thing, Abatement to suicide, murder, culpable homicide, causing death by rashness or negligence, sexual molestation, Outraging the modesty of a woman, obscenity, rape, attempt to rape, sodomy, etc. are some of the examples of offenses punishable under Indian Penal Code. The students will be nurturing a misconception if they feel that their “student” status at an academic institution might help them get away without punishments. Any student above 18 is treated as any other adult for the purposes of criminal law.
In addition to the proceedings under Indian Penal code, the college authorities may initiate disciplinary proceedings against you, which may involve expulsion from the institution or suspension for a suitable time period, fines, expulsion from hostels.
SUMMARY OF THE JUDGMENT OF THE HON. SUPREME COURT DELIVERED ON THE 8th MAY 2009.
1. The Hon. Supreme court ordered that a number of recommendations made by the Raghavan Committee be implemented immediately. These included
• Confidence building measures such as appointment of counsellors, arrival of senior students a week or two weeks after the Juniors have arrived; joint sensitization programmes; joint orientation programme of 'freshers' and ‘seniors’ to be addressed by the principal/Head of the institution; organization on large scale of cultural, sports and other activities; make provisions for faculty members to dine with the hostel residents in their respective hostels etc.
• Every institution must have an Anti-Ragging Committee and an Anti - Ragging Squad. There should be a Monitoring Cell on Ragging at the University Level that would coordinate with the affiliated colleges and institutions under its domain. There should be a Monitoring Cell at the level of the Chancellor of the State Universities.
• In the, light of the increasing number of private commercially managed, lodges or hostels outside campuses, such hostels and management must be registered with the local police authorities and permission to start such hostels or register them must necessarily be recommended by the Heads of educational institutions. It should be mandatory for both local police, local administration as well the institutional authorities to ensure vigil on incidents that may come within the definition of ragging.
• Wardens must be accessible at all hours and therefore it is important that they, be available on telephone and other modes of communication. Similarly, the telephone numbers of the other important functionaries - Heads of institutions, faculty members, members of the anti-ragging committees, district and sub-divisional authorities and state authorities where relevant, should also be widely disseminated for the needy to get in touch or seek help in emergencies.
• Brochures or booklet/leaflet distributed to each student at the beginning of each academic session for obtaining undertaking not to indulge or abet ragging, shall contain the blueprint of prevention and methods of redress."
• The educational institutions shall ensure that each hostel should have a full-time warden who resides within the hostel, or at the very least, in the close vicinity thereof.
2. The Hon. Supreme Court acknowledged that The Ministry of Human Resource Development, Government of India, in consultation with UGC, MCI, AICTE and other similar regulatory bodies was in the process of setting up a central crisis-hotline and anti-ragging database in the manner suggested by Dr. Raj Kachroo. The Hon. Court , however, added that
• The task of monitoring the database be given to a nongovernmental agency, to be immediately nominated by the Union of India to build confidence in the public and also to provide information of non compliance to the regulatory bodies and to the Raghavan Committee.
• The database shall be created out of affidavits affirmed by each student and his/her parents/guardians, which affidavits shall be stored electronically, and shall contain the details of each student.
• The database shall also function as a record of ragging complaints received, and the status of the action taken thereon.
3. The Hon. Supreme Court ordered that Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging, formulated by the UGC, must be adopted by all other regulatory bodies, such as AICTE, MCI, DCI, NCI etc.;
4. The Hon. Supreme Court acknowledged that the incident involving the death of Aman Kachroo clearly indicated that the formulation of guidelines and regulations was not sufficient. Hence, the Hon. Court ordered that such regulations shall have to be enforced strictly, and penal consequences for the heads of the institutions/administration of the institution who do not take timely steps in the prevention of ragging and punishing those who rag. In addition to penal consequences, departmental enquiries be initiated against such heads institutions / members of the administration / faculty members / non-teaching staff, who display an apathetic or insensitive attitude towards complaints of ragging;
5. The Hon. Supreme Court said that not only the students, but also the faculty must be sensitized towards the ills of ragging, and the prevention thereof. Non-teaching staff, which includes administrative staff, contract employees, security guards etc., have also to be regularly sensitized towards the evils and consequences of ragging;
6. The Hon. Supreme Court ordered that the Principal or Head of the Institution/Department shall obtain an undertaking from every employee of the institution including teaching and non-teaching members of staff, contract labour employed in the premises either for running canteen or as watch and ward staff or for cleaning or maintenance of the buildings/lawns etc. that he/she would report promptly any case of ragging which comes to his/her notice. A provision shall be made in the service rules for issuing certificates of appreciation to such members of the staff who report ragging which will form port of their service record.
7. The Hon. Supreme Court said that it was necessary that parents/guardians of freshers assume responsibility for promptly bringing to the notice of the Head of the Institution any instance of ragging.
8. The Hon. Supreme Court said that the SHO/SP, within whose jurisdiction a particular college falls, shall be responsible for ensuring that no ragging takes place on the campus of the concerned college, and to effectively deal with incidents of ragging, should, any such incidents take place. Once a central database/crisis hotline is made operative then as soon as SHO/SP, within whose jurisdiction a particular college falls, is contacted by the crisis hotline staff, then such SHO/SP shall deal effectively with the incident and cooperate and communicate with the crisis hotline staff and/or the independent monitoring agency. This will build confidence and encourage people to report incidences of ragging without fear or delay;
9. The Hon. Supreme court said that once the database/crisis hotline is operative, State Governments shall amend their anti-ragging statutes to include provisions that place penal consequences on institutional head