Purbayan Chakraborty: the Law Student who fought for the rights of the students of KSLU amid COVID

Ritik Shah

Intern, Legal Angles Patna

Mr. Purbayan Chakraborty is a 3rd year law student from Karnataka State Law University who filed a PIL in the Karnataka High Court demanding postponement of examinations amid pandemic. Mr. Ritik Shah, Legal Intern interviewed him on behalf of Legal Angles Patna.


Here is the full interview


Ritik Shah:

Today we have on board Mr. Purbayan Chakraborty, a 3rd year law student from Karnataka State Law University. He has been involved with various social activities pertaining to the question of rights of the people belonging to low socio-economic section of the society. Recently, he filed a petition before The High Court of Karnataka against exams for law students in intermediate semesters amid Covid 19 pandemic.

Hello! Purbayan, can you please tell our readers something about yourself?

Purbayan Chakraborty:

Hi! I am a 3rd year law student in Karnataka State Law University, Hubli, Karnataka. I hail from Chanchal, West Bengal. I have worked as a judicial law intern with Hon'ble Mr. justice S Abdul Nazeer, Judge Supreme Court of India. I have keen interest in social issues pertaining to rights of people belonging to low socio-economic section of the society.I am associated with various NGOs working in this domain. I firmly believe that administration of justice is the firmest pillar of good governance and therefore judiciary plays a major role in protecting the rights of this section of the society.

Ritik Shah:

Amazing! Purbayan can you please inform our readers, what was your motive regarding filing a petition in the High Court of Karnataka?

Purbayan Chakraborty:

The Bar Council of India vide its communication dated 27th May, 2020 read with the Press Release Dated 09.06.2020 had directed the Law Universities to conduct examination for the intermediate semester students after reopening of colleges/universities. This direction was inconsistent with the UGC guidelines and department of Higher Education, Karnataka Government order dated 10th of July, 2020 which had mandated Universities in the State of Karnataka to evaluate intermediate semester students by a formula based on the scores of previous semester and internal examinations.My plea questioned the fairness of holding an examination amid the pandemic given the unequal distribution of resources and danger to health and life of students writing physical exams.

Ritik Shah:

Can you please explain briefly on what grounds did you file your petition?

Purbayan Chakraborty:

Sure! So I argued that it is manifestly unreasonable to ask the students to appear for a previous semester examination while the students are in a different semester. It is humanly impossible to write examination for a previous semester while studying 5 or 6 different law subjects for a different semester. This will have a damaging impact on the mental health of the students. Further, Almost 70-80% of the syllabus of this semester was covered through online mode and therefore, if there is an examination, it will have a disproportionate impact on the students who were unable to take part in the online classes due to various reasons such as internet accessibility, affordability, remote locality etc and that will violate their equality rights.

I also argued that the law students ought to be brought within the ambit of the Karnataka Government Examination Scheme and the UGC Guidelines. The failure to include law students amounts to an unreasonable classification, thus violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

Conducting offline exams amid pandemic will expose the students directly to danger of life and risk to their health which is violative of Article 21 which guarantees the fundamental right to life and health.

Ritik Shah:

What exactly were your prayers from Hon’ble Court?

Purbayan Chakraborty:

I requested the Hon’ble court to quash the guidelines issued by Bar Council of India dated 27.5.2020 to the extent it operates on Karnataka State Law University and direct the Karnataka State Law University to follow the guidelines issued by Dept. of Higher Education, Govt of K'taka on 10.7.2020, whereby, every intermediate semester students are to be evaluated on the basis of comprehensive formula, where 50% weight-age would be by internal evaluation and 50% weight-age would be by marks scored in previous semester. I also requested the Hon’ble court to give direction to our university to conduct weekly one remedial class throughout the next academic year so as to mitigate the loss suffered by the students due to the college shutdown.

Ritik Shah:

What is the present status of your petition?

Purbayan Chakraborty:

As of now, the Karnataka High Court has allowed me to withdraw the petition and has granted liberty to file an individual petition. The division bench raised the preliminary objection as regards to the maintainability of the petition as it was a PIL and I myself was an effected party.However, now we are glad because on 26th of August, 2020, Karnataka Law and Parliamentary Affairs minister, JC Madhuswamy confirmed that Karnataka State Law University intermediate exams will be postponed owing to Covid- 19 situations in the state. He also announced that physical classes will be conducted for 45 days to 2 months before the commencement of intermediate exams.

Ritik Shah:

How do you look up to this online education after the coronavirus attack in our society?

Purbayan Chakraborty:

With the whole world inside cages, and zoom(digital platforms) becoming the new classrooms, our country has definitely stepped up a ladder to achieve the concept of Digital India, but the ground reality is different. A survey conducted by NSO on “key indicators of household social consumption in India” for the year 2017-18 revealed that only 10.7% of households has computer while 18.8% household has an internet facility in Karnataka and the percentage goes down to 2.0% and 8.3% respectively in rural Karnataka. Large no. of students are unable to attend online classes for various reasons like lack of accessibility, remote locality, affordability, etc. Further mere access to internet is not sufficient to take part in the digital education, but one must also necessarily have consistency and stability in the internet connectivity. There is now widespread agreement that in a national health emergency situation like this, the flow of education must go on through the online modes. But we must not forget that education is a right in our country, and internet is a privilege. India as it stands today, cannot afford to evaluate its students based on education which is disseminated through internet.

Ritik Shah:

Thankyou so much Purbayan for giving your time. As you pointed out, Education is our right but internet is a privilege in our society. I hope we succeed in maintaining a balance between these two and build up a policy which benefits both the weakest and strongest strata of society. I had a great experience interacting with you. Thankyou!

Purbayan Chakraborty:

My pleasure. Thankyou for raising this important issue through your platform and hope we all together can work for the upliftment and betterment of our society.

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