Ragging – A punishable offence

Ragging is a disturbing reality in the higher education system of our country. Despite the fact that over the years ragging has claimed hundreds of innocent lives and has ruined careers of thousands of bright students, the practice is still perceived by many as a way of ‘familiarization’ and an ‘initiation into the real world’ for young college-going students.

Meaning and definition of ragging
The Supreme Court defined ragging in the Vishwa Jagriti matter (1999) as, “Any disorderly conduct whether by words spoken or written or by an act which has the effect of teasing, treating or handling with rudeness any other student, indulging in rowdy or undisciplined activities which causes or is likely to cause annoyance, hardship or psychological harm or to raise fear or apprehension thereof in a fresher or a junior student or asking the students to do any act or per form something which such student will not in the ordinary course and which has the effect of causing or generating a sense of shame or embarrassment so as to adversely affect the physique or psyche of a fresher or a junior student.” ( Raghavan Committee Report, 2007)
Other organisations/bodies working in this field have also attempted to define ragging, the variety of definitions being reflective of differences in perspective and interpretation. In 2007, the Committee of Consultants to Raghavan Committee considered ragging “neither a means of familiarization nor an introduction with freshers, but a form of psychopathic behaviour and a reflection of deviant personalities. Further, ragging reproduces the entrenched power configurations prevalent in civil society.”
According to the UGC Regulation on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Institutions, 2009, ragging constitutes one or more of any of the following acts:

• Any conduct by any student or students whether by words spoken or written or by an act which has the effect of teasing, treating or handling with rudeness a fresher or any other student.
• Indulging in rowdy or undisciplined activities by any student or students which causes or is likely to cause annoyance, hardship, physical or psychological harm or to raise fear or apprehension thereof in any fresher or any other student.
• Asking any student to do any act which such student will not in the ordinary course do and which has the effect of causing or generating a sense of shame, or torment or embarrassment so as to adversely affect the physique or psyche of such fresher or any other student.
• Any act by a senior student that prevents, disrupts or disturbs the regular academic activity of any other student or a fresher.
• Exploiting the services of a fresher or any other student for completing the academic tasks assigned to an individual or a group of students.
• Any act of financial extortion or forceful expenditure burden put on a fresher or any other student by students
• Any act of physical abuse including all variants of it: sexual abuse, homosexual assaults, stripping, forcing obscene and lewd acts, gestures, causing bodily harm or any other danger to health or person;
• Any act or abuse by spoken words, emails, post, public insults which would also include deriving perverted pleasure, vicarious or sadistic thrill from actively or passively participating in the discomfiture to fresher or any other student.
• Any act of physical or mental abuse (including bullying and exclusion) targeted at another student (fresher or otherwise) on the ground of colour, race, religion, caste, ethnicity, gender (including transgender), sexual orientation, appearance, nationality, regional origins, linguistic identity, place of birth, place of residence or economic background.
Government steps against ragging

The anti-ragging campaign got an impetus in 1999 when the Hon’ble Supreme Court, in response to a PIL filed by the Vishwa Jagriti Mission, asked the University Grants Commission (UGC) to issue guidelines to universities to curb ragging. The UGC formed a four member committee under Prof K.P.S. Unny, Registrar of Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, to examine and submit a report on ragging. In their recommendations, the Unny Committee put forward a Prohibition, Prevention and Punishment proposal i.e. prohibition by law, prevention by guidelines and punishment if the prohibition and punishment do not work. They recommended that central and state governments should enact laws against ragging. They suggested punishments ranging from cancellation of admission to a monetary fine of up to Rs. 25,000 and rigorous imprisonment of up to three years. The Committee also recommended various measures to be undertaken for sensitisation against ragging and highlighted the need for incentivizing wardens and students for their good conduct and anti-ragging activities. It was also suggested that institutions failing to curb ragging should be disaffiliated.

In 2006, the issue of ragging was once again brought to the forefront when the Supreme Court expressed its disappointment in the implementation of its previous guidelines and constituted another committee under Dr. R K Raghavan, Director CBI, to suggest means and methods to prevent ragging; to suggest possible action that can be taken against persons indulging in ragging; and to suggest possible action against institutions that fail to curb ragging. The committee made several important observations. It noted that ragging has many aspects, including psychological, social, political, economic and cultural, and that it adversely impacts the standards of higher education. It considered ragging as our failure to inculcate human values from the schooling stage. The Committee made some strong recommendations to curb ragging.

UGC Regulation on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009
In order to address the issue of increase in ragging cases in campuses, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has brought out the UGC Regulations on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009. These regulations are to be followed mandatorily by all Higher Educational Institutions. UGC has established an Anti-Ragging toll free “helpline” 1800-180-5522 in 12 languages for helping victims of ragging. The UGC has developed an Anti-Ragging Website – http://www.antiragging.in. The Portal contains the record of registered complaints received and the status of the action taken thereon.

Punishments accorded

According to the UGC Regulation on Curbing the Menace of Ragging in Higher Educational Institutions, 2009, depending on the nature and gravity of the guilt established by the Anti-Ragging Squad, those found guilty may be awarded one or more of the following punishments, namely;
• Suspension from attending classes and academic privileges.
• Withholding/ withdrawing scholarship/ fellowship and other benefits.
• Debarring from appearing in any test/ examination or other evaluation process.
• Withholding results.
• Debarring from representing the institution in any regional, national or international meet, tournament, youth festival, etc.
• Suspension/ expulsion from the hostel.
• Cancellation of admission.
• Rustication from the institution for period ranging from one to four semesters.
• Expulsion from the institution and consequent debarring from admission to any other institution for a specified period

D. Punishments under Indian Penal Code against acts of Ragging
• Every single incident of ragging or abetting in ragging puts an obligation on the institution to get the FIR registered. There are provisions in the IPC, which can be used by a student to register an FIR in the nearest Police Station. These provisions are:
• 294 – Obscene acts and songs
323 – punishment for voluntarily causing hurt
324 – voluntarily causing hurt by dangerous weapon or means
325 – punishment for voluntarily causing grievous hurt
326 – voluntarily causing grievous hurt by dangerous weapon
339 – Wrongful Restraint
340 – Wrongful Confinement
341 – Punishment for Wrongful Restraint
342 – Punishment for Wrongful Confinement
506 – Punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder

Publishing ragging is banned : The institutions are required to publish that the ragging is totally banned in the institution and anyone found doing/abetting ragging would be suitably punished.
Brochures/Application Form/Enrollment Form :The college brochures are required to mention these guidelines in full. The prospectus would include all directions of Supreme Court/Central and State Government as applicable. The application/enrollment form for admission will have an undertaking in English and Hindi and preferably one in regional language to be signed by parent/guardian. The school-leaving certificate should reflect the behavioral pattern of the student.
Affidavit of Student : A student during the admission process has to file an affidavit along with his parents/guardian’s signature, stating that he will not be ragging other students directly or indirectly.
Anti-Ragging Committee : Every institution shall constitute a committee to be known as the Anti-Ragging Committee. To be nominated and headed by the Head of the institution, and consisting of representatives of civil and police administration, local media, Non-Government Organizations involved in youth activities, representatives of faculty members, representatives of parents, representatives of students belonging to the freshers category as well as senior students, non-teaching staff; and shall have a diverse mix of membership in terms of levels as well as gender.

Contact detail of Anti Ragging Helpline/Anti Ragging Committee/Anti Ragging Squad : Every fresh student admitted to the institution shall be given a printed leaflet detailing to whom he/she has to turn to for help and guidance for various purposes including addresses and telephone numbers, so as to enable the student to contact the concerned person at any time. Identity of informants of ragging incidents is fully protected.
Anti ragging squad : Anti ragging committee would also monitor and oversee the performance of the Anti-Ragging Squad. It shall be the duty of the Anti-Ragging Squad to make surprise raids on hostels, and other places vulnerable to incidents of, and having the potential of, ragging.

Ragging is a problem of the students and by the students; and therefore, the solution to it also lies with the students. With ragging becoming rampant in colleges, it is about time that the the student community awakens its conscience to this inhuman practice before more and more innocent students become victims of it and before more and more educational institutes are degraded by it.