St Stephen's Student Sues Principal For Banning Online Magazine

17/04/2015 1:24 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
St. Stephen's College, Delhi. Main Building.

Devansh Mehta, a third-year philosophy student at St. Stephen's College, has sued its principal for banning an online magazine, which he co-founded and published in March, as a violation of free speech.

The principal, Valson Thampu, claims he did not give permission to publish 'St. Stephen’s Weekly e-magazine,' which featured an interview with him.

Mehta, editor-in-chief, has been suspended from campus until April 23 for “indiscipline” because he informed media about the ban, and he has been stripped off the Rai Sahib Benarsi Das Memorial Prize awarded to him by the college’s philosophy department.

Mehta, 21, has also contended the "breach of discipline” decision was reached by a one-man disciplinary committee appointed by the principal himself.

The interview was conducted with Thampu on Mar. 4, and the transcript was sent to him on the morning of Mar. 7, according to the petition filed in the Delhi High Court. Since the co-founders didn’t hear from the principal by the end of the day, they decided to publish the interview and launch the first edition which had been widely publicised.

The petition describes Thampu’s ban as "not just completely arbitrary but would also amount to a serious curtailment on the freedom of speech, especially when the same is not defamatory to the institution at large or to any individual in particular.”

"We are very upset with this development,” Mehta’s parents said in an email.

"The Principal is clearly victimising our son for merely speaking to the media and informing them of the ban on Stephen's Weekly. He has done nothing wrong.The principal should conduct himself with grace which behooves his position,” they said.

An online campaign by students is calling for Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal to decline from attending the St. Stephen’s Dismissal service on Saturday as the chief guest. Mehta was to be conferred the Rai Sahib Benarsi Das Memorial Prize at this event. He has also secured admission at Columbia’s School of Journalism in New York.

"This letter is an attempt to tackle the much larger and perpetual problem of functioning under an authoritarian administrative system and we hope you view it similarly,” said the campaign letter to Kejriwal.

"Our primary worry is that while we have witnessed the situation move from better to worse, future generations will only experience an atmosphere of passivity and subordination and will in all likelihood, eventually adhere to it," it said.

Mehta has asked the court to strike down the order banning 'St. Stephen’s Weekly' and quash his suspension.

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