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Delhi High Court Directs JNU to Provide Free Hostel to Visually Impaired Student

The Delhi High Court ordered Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) to grant free hostel lodging to Sanjeev Kumar Mishra, a visually handicapped student, till he completes his master’s degree. Mishra was removed from the dormitory since the regulations prohibit students from taking a second postgraduate study. The court ordered JNU to comply within a week and provide all amenities available to differently abled pupils.

The high court granted a plea by 49-year-old Sanjeev Kumar Mishra opposing his removal from the hostel on the grounds that the applicable regulations do not allow hostel lodging for a student pursuing a second postgraduate degree.

“The petitioner is, therefore, entitled, as of right, to hostel accommodation, provided by the JNU within its campus, free of cost, with all other entitlements to which a differently abled student is entitled under the law and the policies of the JNU, till completion of his master’s degree course in Sociology,” the high court said.

The high court said it was truly ironic that JNU was seeking to defend its case by relying on the fact that the petitioner – a 100 percent visually challenged student – had provided a residential address 21 km away from the JNU campus. “The submission deserves no further comment”, it said.

It added that no empirical data, whatsoever, has been provided by the JNU to indicate that it would be unreasonable to expect the JNU to provide hostel accommodation to the petitioner. “A student who is pursuing a second master’s degree course with the JNU, having already pursued and completed one, is as entitled to a place to stay as a student who is joining the JNU for the first time,” the court said.

Advocate Rahul Bajaj, representing the petitioner, submitted this rule cannot be applied in all cases while being unmindful of the physical disabilities that individual students may suffer from.

What is the JNU reply?

JNU’s counsel submitted that denial of hostel accommodation to the petitioner, consequent to his enrolment in the second master’s degree course, was strictly in accordance with the JNU Hostel Manual, which excluded students who had completed their qualifying examinations from places outside Delhi and were not residents thereof from entitlement to hostel accommodation, if they already had a degree or were pursuing studies in the JNU at the same level with hostel accommodation.

The counsel said this exception applied to the petitioner and, therefore, he was not entitled to seek hostel accommodation.

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