"Kerala Is Not Ready Yet", High Court While Upholding Directory Restrictions On Timing In Medical College Hostels
The Kerala High Court has disposed of the pleas challenging the restrictions on timings in hostels of medical colleges, noting that as per the new government order, students can go out of the hostel even after 9.30 pm for valid reasons intimated in writing. The Court has directed that internal complaints committed to deal with sexual harassment should be constituted in every college, as required by UGC regulations, within two months.
Society also has to change and the infrastructure should be much more than what we see today, the Court said while dictating its order while referring to an ideal situation without any restrictions.
"The situation while the Writ has filed has undergone a paradigm change and their capacity to access the campus after 9.30 pm has now become much easier", the Court said in its Order.
The Bench said in its Order that the genuine concern is whether our communities are equipped to protect our citizens as we would expect in an ideal situation. Going by the pleadings, it is certainly in the negative, it said.
The Court said in its order that the new order issued by the government strikes balance between security and freedom. In an ideal society, women should be able to walk on the street at any time, whether day or night, but it will require the security system to be strong. It said, "Concerns of parents cannon be brushed aside because children have not attained the age of 18".
Court also said in the order that children can't be locked up or secluded even on the ground of offering them protection. "It is the inviolable duty of the society to offer them protection and to make our streets and public spaces safe, be that day or night", the Court said in its order.
"Since this is not an ideal world, concerns of protection and requirements of security will certainly have to be given the primacy that it requires. However, without boxing in our girls, without making them feel that they need a man to protect them", the Court said while dictating its order.
The Bench of Justice Devan Ramachandran observed during the hearing that, "Kerala is not ready. The Court is coming under criticism not because people don't want girls to be free, but because the state is not ready. Every parent is concerned about their safety".
When Advocate Harish Vasudevan appearing for the Petitioner submitted that no one has come forward to oppose the Writ Petition, including the Parent Teacher Association, the Court observed, "That is because no one wants to come here. They want to criticise on social media. I don't follow social media, but cyberspace is being monitored. People don't know that".
The real question in this case is whether we are ready, the Court observed, adding that "Please understand that our society is not ready, like in Singapore and other places where people can walk out and come back safe".
The Court also observed that "Girls can't be seen to be a different class and be subject to unreasonable restrictions. The government is not doing this. It is treating the students as a separate class. The question is whether it is unreasonable. It depends on the ethos of a society. We are trying to find out what is a reasonable restriction that can be imposed on students' rights".
The Bench also observed during the hearing that "Every woman should be ready to walk on the street at night. But our society must be ready. There should be some guarantee to parents that their child is safe. Parents are also concerned".
"Hostels are not jails. This Court is very clear. But you can't say that there can't be any restrictions", the Court said.
The Kerala University of Health Science (KUHS) through Advocate P. Sreekumar that it fully endorsed the new government order issued by the state government.
Even the Kerala Women's Commission submitted that it is not opposed to reasonable restrictions on students in hostels.
Earlier, the Kerala University of Health Sciences had submitted through a statement that the age of maturity does not necessarily bring in brain maturation and that seeking absolute freedom on attaining the age of 18 may not be appropriate and good for the society, while supporting the government's decision to impose some restrictions on hostel timings.