Calcutta High Court orders action following unnatural death of IIT Kharagpur student

The court expressed concern for the welfare of students seeking high-level scientific and technical education in India and has ordered the institute to provide counselling, starting at the ground leve
Calcutta High Court | Pic: EdexLive
Calcutta High Court | Pic: EdexLive

The High Court of Calcutta has ordered the director of the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur to take action following the unnatural death of a third-year student in a hostel room. The court expressed concern for the welfare of students seeking high-level scientific and technical education in India and has ordered the institute to provide counselling, starting at the ground level. The director of IIT Kharagpur has been personally tasked with implementing these measures, in light of recent ragging allegations.

The court passed orders on a petition filed by Salim Ahmed, the father of Faizan Ahmed, a mechanical engineering student whose body was found in the hostel room of the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur on October 14, 2022. The petition was heard in the presence of Professor Virendra Kumar Tewari, the Director of the Institute. The petitioner, Ahmed, who hails from the Tinsukia district in Assam, is requesting the formation of a special investigation team to investigate the unnatural death of his son.

"It is expected that stern, stringent and deterrent measures shall be taken by IIT, Kharagpur in respect of this incident and also to prevent recurrence of such incidents in future," Justice Rajasekhar Mantha said in the order on Friday, January 20 stating a report by PTI.

Expressing concern over the well-being of students of the institute, the court said "a large number of students with superior intellectual abilities, from different economic and social backgrounds and having different emotional quotients, come here”. The impact on students' behavioural patterns was also noted by the court. The court said, "sometimes restricting their free expression and interaction." Any incidents of "ragging" according to Justice Mantha just make things worse for these students.

"It can scar the victim students psychologically for varying periods of time. In some cases it remains for long years in the psyche of the student and in some others permanently," the court observed, stated the PTI report.

"The intellectual growth, well-being and development of society and the nation' can therefore be adversely impacted as a consequence of this 'menace called ragging," the court observed, maintaining that the director of IIT, Kharagpur ought to have been aware of the above. The court stated that it is worried about the welfare of the students seeking specialised high-level scientific and technical education in this nation while taking note of IIT's submission that a meeting of the IIT board of governors is scheduled for February 10 stated the PTI report.

Justice Mantha instructed the state police to update the court on the progress of the inquiry on February 6, either through a written report or verbal update and requested the West Bengal Advocate General to assist the court in the case. On February 13, the court will consider IIT's compliance with the instructions given.

During the hearing, IIT's senior lawyer, Anindya Mitra, argued that a fact-finding committee established by the institute had investigated the matter and that any issues or gaps identified in an earlier report submitted by the institute had been resolved in a new report. The court instructed the petitioner's attorney, Ranajit Chatterjee, to review the report, highlight any faults as soon as possible, and inform the IIT's director through the organization's lawyer on record.

“We are a residential institution having 16,000 students. if we lose anyone, any of our children, it is sad, and shocking and it hurts us as guardians. IIT Kharagpur has always extended cooperation to the investigating agencies during the ongoing probe. Lastly, we will always abide by the directives of the honourable high court", Registrar of IIT, Kharagpur, Tamal Nath told PTI.

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