Uttarakhand boy wins case against university, gets his expulsion upturned

State Disability Commissioner orders Uttaranchal University to provide him with ‘conducive environment and protection’.

The Disability Commissioner of Uttarakhand on Monday ordered the Uttaranchal University to recall its one-year expulsion notice it handed out to Abhinav Vijay Jha on April 18. Jha, a second semester BSc Honours student, suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), a mental condition which makes a patient prone to aggressive and violent behaviour. The patient also develops a tendency to be reclusive, completely avoiding social interaction.

The order, discussing the case in detail, was delivered on June 10 but formally released three days later on Monday. Finding the expulsion in contravention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act 2016, the Disability Commissioner has ordered the university administration not only to take back Abhinav but also admit him to the next semester on the basis of his first semester result. According to the order, the university will have to provide him a “conducive environment and protection.”

India enacted its own disabilities law in 2016 a decade after it became a signatory to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2007. The Disabilities Act seeks to protect persons suffering from various forms of disabilities, including mental, from all kinds of discrimination, cruelty, violence and exploitation. The act also enjoins upon educational institutions “to promote and facilitate an inclusive education.”

Abhinav Vijay was a normal lad, sharp and bubbling with energy, till eighth standard after which he began to show disturbing tendencies. He became reclusive, largely keeping to himself. He would at times become aggressive and violent. A preliminary check-up at the Doon Medical College revealed the signs to be of some psychiatric affliction. His parents were advised to get him a thorough check-up done at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bangalore. When after a month, which he spent in their care, NIMHANS diagnosed their son with OCD in 2015, their worst fears about the prognosis came true.

The condition did not allow him to avail himself of the joy of regular schooling. After passing 10th and 12th standards exams from open school in 2017 and 2021, respectively, Abhinav took a leap of faith when he enrolled for an honours science degree programme at the Uttaranchal University. “Subsequent to my admission to the university, my mental condition improved and I began making friends with my classmates. Unlike a total recluse once I was, I began interacting with people socially,” said Abhinav, who idolizes Albert Einstein. This reflected in his grades in the first semester examinations as he secured an SGPA score of 7.33, A+.

However, Abhinav’s world turned upside down on the first day of the second semester when he asked his physics teacher Professor B.S. Rawat to allow him leave to attend some urgent work which demanded his immediate attention. This infuriated Professor Rawat and a verbal spat ensued leaving Abhinav agitated for hours. When his father Raj Narayan Jha, an Indian Forest Service officer and Member Secretary of Uttarakhand Biodiversity Board (UBB), came to know about the unsavoury incident he sent two of his colleagues and his son back to the university to meet Professor Rawat and sort things out but to no avail. Professor Rawat, who also heads the department, without any provocation turned violent and grabbing Abhinav by his collar pushed him down on the floor. “Professor Rawat knew very well about Abhinav’s medical condition, yet he chose to behave in such a bestial manner,” said Abou Talib, Research Officer in the UBB, who had accompanied Abhinav that evening.

According to Talib, Abhinav’s travails began when he started asking questions which rather went beyond his syllabus. “His intelligence made them all uncomfortable and intimidated,” said Talib. No amount of cajoling by his father Raj Narayan and persuasion worked and the university administration confirms his son’s expulsion on May 18, against which Abhinav moved the Uttarakhand Disability Commissioner’s Court to restore status quo.

“This fight is not for my son only. It is for the betterment of those young minds who want to pursue studies to better their lot and looking for a normal life ahead despite various disabilities they suffer from. This fight is about sensitizing educational institutions on special needs of such students,” said Raj Narayan expressing his satisfaction over the order.

When The Daily Guardian Review contacted Professor Rawat, he refused to speak. However, Professor Shravan Kumar, Dean Student Welfare had this much to say, “We will abide by the order of the Disability Commissioner.” The Disability Commissioner has also directed the Uttarakhand Higher Education Secretary to get the order implemented by the university.