The Delhi High Court on Thursday refused to provide interim protection from arrest and other coercive action to the students of Jamia Millia Islamia University, who sought a judicial inquiry into the actions of the police for entering the institution’s campus on the night of December 15 and assaulting students. As the judges arose, the petitioners’ lawyers and others shouted “shame shame”.

A bench of Chief Justice DN Patel and Justice C Hari Shankar issued notices to the Centre, the Delhi government and the police, and asked them to respond to the plea for a fact-finding committee. The court did not issue any directions to preserve CCTV footage of the incident, and posted the matter for hearing on February 4, 2020.

During the proceedings, the petitioners argued that “452 tear gas cannons were fired, [the] highest since 2012” to quell the protests, Live Law reported. “This court has to decide as to whether the use of force inside ther campus was called for, whether police was allowed to use the force and what justified that force?” said lawyer Sanjay Hegde.

Senior advocate Indira Jaising said the matter was about maintaining a balance between the right to protest and free speech, and maintaining law and order. She said neither the vice chancellor nor the proctor of the university had given the police permission to enter the campus. “Here there are students and the State on the other hand and vulnerability lies with the students,” she said, according to Bar and Bench. “What has happened has happened behind the walls of a gated university.”

The violence had erupted following a protest march by Jamia students against the Citizenship Amendment Act. Buses were set on fire, and several students and police officers were injured. After entering the campus, the police detained around 100 students, who were released around hours later. Videos shared on social media suggested that police officials used guns during the crackdown at Jamia, and allegedly shot at protestors. However, the police have categorically denied firing at protestors.

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