The ruling of the high court is thus an absolute paradox.
Courts are mandated to adjudicate on legal issues and not solve political ones. The moment they step into a realm that is not theirs, verdicts like the one by the Kerala high court the other day, banning political activity on campuses, result. Learning is the fundamental right of students, the court reasoned, allowing a batch of petitions by school managements. According to it, campuses are places for creating dialogues and discussions and should not become venues of protest.
The verdict is at its anachronistic best as it comes at a time when campuses in the country are actively involved in movements that are sure to decide its future as a democracy. The government’s new agenda for Jammu and Kashmir has so far had a smooth run; but its plan to undermine the very fundamentals of the Constitution has been resisted mainly by student movements on various campuses nationwide. If the government looks vulnerable on the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and has been forced to pull back on introducing a National Register of Citizens, the credit goes to vibrant campuses. Defiance of national governments having a destructive intent has been the hallmark of Indian campuses from the pre-Independence era; and it’s irrational to ask spaces with voters in them to be silent on political issues.
The ruling of the high court is thus an absolute paradox. Kerala has been shaped by leaders who took to political activity right from their student days, starting with the first chief minister, E.M.S. Namboodiripad through A.K. Antony and Oommen Chandy right up to Pinarayi Vijayan, the incumbent. Most of its past and present legislators have had their political baptism on campuses. Depriving citizens of their right to political activity and in such a state militates against both legacy and reason.