The controversy was created when a UGC notice announced the setting up of a working group to study the Delhi University Act in terms of its present relevance and also look at bringing teaching, learning, exams and evaluation in DU under ESMA.Faced with criticism over a University Grants’ Commission (UGC) notice that set up a working group to recommend the possibility for the application of the Essential Services Maintenance Act (ESMA) to the University of Delhi, the Centre has clarified that no such thing would be done.
The UGC notice was followed by criticism from teachers’ associations that the application of ESMA would mean that anyone could be arrested “without warrant” for speaking out and provoking people.
In a tweet aimed at clearing the air, higher education secretary R. Subrahmanyam said early on Saturday, “There is no proposal to bring Delhi University under ESMA. The suggestion to ban strikes in the examination services came from some affected students during the DUTA strike. We have examined it and are not going ahead with the suggestion.”
The message became increasingly clear when Union Minister of Human Resource Development Prakash Javadekar took to Twitter later in the day, saying, “We have neither put any restrictions not intend to put any restrictions on ‘Freedom of Speech’ in JNU, Delhi University or any other university.”
“It has been decided that DU would not be brought under ESMA,” explained a senior MHRD official. The controversy was created when a UGC notice announced the setting up of a working group to study the Delhi University Act in terms of its present relevance and also look at bringing teaching, learning, exams and evaluation in DU under ESMA.
There was immediate condemnation of the move from DU teachers’ associations.
“Under ESMA Clause (VIII), anybody can be arrested for speaking out, ‘for instigation’, ‘without warrant’,” said Academics for Action and Development chairperson Aditya Narayan Misra, adding: “Clause (V) states that such an Act shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year.”MHRD officials explained the move, saying it was a response to the DUTA strike earlier this year at the time of evaluation.
Just a day later, on Saturday, the minister and the higher education secretary cleared the air, announcing that the application of ESMA was not under consideration and that there will be no restriction on the freedom of speech in DU and JNU — the two universities that have seen instances of friction with the government in the last two years — or any other university