The Kerala High Court has ordered the reinstatement of a professor at the Central University of Kerala in Kasaragod who was suspended for criticising on Facebook the institution’s action against a Dalit scholar, Live Law reported.

The university has been in turmoil in recent months with students and teachers protesting against a series of “disciplinary actions” against leftist and Dalit activists that was seen as attempts to crush dissent.

The court, in a judgement on December 5, criticised the university for suspending Associate Professor Prasad Pannian, who had questioned the institution’s move to file a police complaint against PhD scholar Ganthoti Nagaraju for breaking the glass pane of a fire alarm. Nagaraju was arrested on the basis of the complaint. Pannian, who was removed as the head of the department of English and Comparative Literature on September 7, had said the administration should not have involved the police in the matter.

“One cannot be prevented from expressing his views merely because he is an employee,” Justice Muhamed Mustaque said in his judgement. “In a democratic society, every institution is governed by democratic norms. Healthy criticism is a better way to govern a public institution.”

The university argued in court that it was the vice chancellor’s prerogative to appoint heads of departments. However, Mustaque said the decision needed to be examined as it would be seen as a stain on Pannian’s career and reputation.

“Posting in Facebook or social media has become a matter of concern for public authorities,” the court said. “It is a matter of formulation of opinion of others. As pointed out by this court in several judgements, in the absence of any social media guidelines, such post has to be viewed to find out whether it would be detrimental to the collective interest of the university. The expression of opinion of a teacher in regard to an action cannot be considered as a criticism.”