St. Stephen’s students may be debarred from exam for not attending morning assembly

New Delhi, Feb 20 – Over 100 students may not be permitted to sit in the upcoming exams in St. Stephen’s college of Delhi University for not attending the morning assembly prayers.

The college administration in an email stated that this was happening as a consequence of the suspension of students due to the low attendance in the morning assembly. Students were also suspended from the class for not attending the prayers.

Students and many teachers are opposing the decision. They said that making the students listen to religious scriptures and preaching against their will and forcing them to pray, possibly against their beliefs/religion is unethical and contrary to the liberal ethos of any institution of higher learning.

The college administration has sent emails to the parents of these students. In the email, the college administration asked the parents to meet the Principal at the earliest. IANS have a copy of this email.

“This is to bring to your kind notice that there was a prior request for you to meet with the Principal regarding the low attendance in the morning assembly. Unfortunately, we noted that you were unable to report to the Principal’s Office as requested. Regrettably, due to non-compliance with this request, I inform you that the student will not be permitted to sit for the upcoming examinations as a consequence of suspension. Kindly make it convenient to meet the Principal at the earliest.”

Sanjeev Grewal, HOD Economics, St. Stephen’s College, opposed the decision and wrote a letter to the principal. In the letter, he said 140 first year students are being threatened with suspension and holding back from exams for not attending morning assembly.

He wrote an open letter on the issue to St. Stephen’s principal. In his letter Grewal said, “I am quite shocked to know that a large number of students have been suspended from college and it has been threatened that they will also be debarred from appearing in the examinations. In my opinion, students can be debarred from appearing in the examinations only on the grounds explicitly stated in the university rules and regulations. To the best of my knowledge, the shortage of attendance in the morning college assembly is not a ground for debarring students from appearing in the examinations.”

The morning assembly is a convention specific to St. Stephen’s College and is not recognized by the university (not to talk of it being a requirement for appearing in the examinations), nor does the failure to attend morning assembly, in my humble opinion, constitute a legitimate ground for suspension from the college, the HOD added.

He said that making the assembly attendance compulsory may indeed be violative of the fundamental rights of students under Articles 25 and 28(3) of the Constitution, and hence illegal. College assembly has always involved religious prayers and reading from the religious scriptures. There is a freedom as to attendance at religious instruction or religious worship in certain educational institutions.

The student, on the condition of anonymity, said that emails were sent on February 17 (Saturday) to over 100 first-year students of St Stephen’s College, in which they were suspended and debarred from the semester 2 examinations. The reason cited was a failure to set up an appointment with the Principal in response to the email sent on February 4 (Sunday) wherein these first-year students were asked to do the same due to low attendance in the Morning Assemblies in the month of January.

In a written communication with Principal and senior members of the college, the students said, “We, the first year students of St Stephen’s College, would like to convey our reasons for the missed appointments as well as express our concerns over the consequences of this. Sir, for many students, the prospect of setting an appointment wasn’t feasible, since their parents do not live in Delhi NCR, and, hence, it wasn’t possible for them to travel all the way to Delhi at short notice due to prior commitments, scheduling issues, and financial issues. Nonetheless, some students attempted to fix an appointment without a guardian but were rejected, and others did not receive any response to their emails or e-files regarding the appointments.”

“We also seek clarification on the stated grounds of suspension because, to the degree that we are familiar with the rules inscribed in the College Constitution and the University Rulebook, we were unaware of morning assembly attendance being a factor of consequence with regard to debarment from college examination and suspension,” the aggrieved students added.

Some parents have met the administration to resolve the issue.

gcb/dpb

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