The Madras High Court on Monday took up a suo motu public interest litigation petition following news reports regarding the recent ragging incident at the Christian Medical College (CMC) in Vellore. It, however, simply adjourned the matter by two weeks after the management apprised the court of the action taken so far following an overnight inquiry.
Appearing before Acting Chief Justice T. Raja and Justice D. Krishnakumar, CMC counsel Krishna Srinivasan said, the principal had received an anonymous e-mail regarding the ragging incident at 3.30 a.m. on November 6 and he convened a meeting with the wardens and governing body of the men’s hostel at 10 a.m. on the same day.
He also directed the anti-ragging squad, headed by the warden, to inquire into the matter on a war-footing. Subsequently, the principal received another e-mail from the anti-ragging helpline, with certain attachments, at 5.08 p.m. However, at 8 p.m., the anti-ragging squad reported that it did not come across any instance of ragging on the campus.
Not satisfied with such reply, the principal constituted a Specific Inquiry Committee (SIC) comprising five senior professors at 10 p.m. He and the committee inquired about the incident with 40 out of 49 first year students and seven senior students at the men’s hostel. The inquiry was conducted between 11.15 p.m. and 4.30 a.m.
A preliminary report of the SIC prepared at 4.45 a.m. on November 7 indicated the involvement of the seven senior students in ragging their juniors. All the seven students were suspended with immediate effect at 8 a.m. and it was informed to their parents. The principal presented SIC’s report to the Anti-Ragging Committee (ARC) at 11 a.m.
After being satisfied with the action taken against the seven students, the ARC decided to reconvene after the submission of a final report. Thereafter, the SIC conducted an inquiry with the remaining nine first year students and also the seven senior students between 7.30 p.m. and 11.15 p.m. on November 7 itself without any time.
A final inquiry report was submitted by the SIC at 12.30 a.m. on November 8. Though the principal also constituted a two-member committee at 8 a.m. to review the CCTV footage recordings of the men’s hostel mess, no evidence of ragging was found in that footage as per a report submitted by the committee at 10 p.m. on that day.
On November 9, an e-mail was sent at 11.15 a.m. calling for an urgent meeting of the ARC which convened at 1.30 p.m. and concluded that a prima facie case had been made out. Accordingly, the principal lodged a complaint and a First Information Report (FIR) was registered at the Bagayam police station at 6 p.m.
At present, the police was seized of the investigation, Mr. Srinivasan told the court and said, the college had taken prompt action by conducting an inquiry overnight. He also assured the court that none, including the staff, would be spared if found guilty and that the institution maintains zero tolerance policy towards ragging as mentioned in its prospectus.
During the course of hearing, the ACJ said, the court had taken suo motu notice of the incident only because CMC was a premier institution where such an incident ought not to have taken place. The judges also said that the medical profession was not just noble but also considered divine and therefore medical students were not expected to act in violation of the law.