Hyderabad: Five students of the English and Foreign Languages University (Eflu) were sentenced to six months’ simple imprisonment by the IV Additional Chief Metropolitan Magistrate on Tuesday in a defamation case filed against them in 2013 by Dr Meenakshi Reddy of the Germanic Studies department, Eflu.
The students got bail the same day and have been given time till January 10 to appeal against the judgement. The five students belong to Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe communities and had alleged that Dr Reddy discriminated against them because of their caste.
The five — Munavath Sriramulu, D, Mohan, B. Ravichandran, Upender and Satish — were PhD students when the defamation case was filed. The defamation case was filed in 2013 at the Osmania University police station.
Students raised false allegations: Professor
In the same station, a case was filed by one of the five students against Dr Reddy under SC and ST Prevention of Atrocities Act. This case is still pending in the Hyderabad High Court.
Dr Reddy said, “It is a very balanced and welcome judgement. The students raised false allegations of caste discrimination against me and took to various means like social media, speaking to the Press, conducting dharnas, filing online petitions to defame me. After years of being patient, I filed the defamation case against them.”
Dr Reddy also said, “The Prevention of Atrocities Act should have a clause that if it is proven to be a false case then those who file the complaint should be punished.”
The court judgement is a rare one wherein a teacher filed a defamation case against students, resulting in their conviction. It has opened a Pandora’s Box as there are many complaints of caste discrimination by students against teachers in universities.
YouTube video catalyst in conviction
A video uploaded on YouTube proved to be a strong factor in convicting the five Eflu students in a defamation case. The students had addressed the media in 2012 and made allegations of caste discrimination against Dr Meenakshi Reddy of the university’s Germanic studies department. Video of the press meet was uploaded on YouTube by a channel named Dalit Camera on December 25, 2012.
Mr Jai Bhim Rao, advocate for the five students, said the video which is still available on YouTube, was shown as incriminating evidence. One of the five convicted students claimed, “The content of the video is no different from what was given in the written complaint to police on caste discrimination by Dr Reddy. The police case was not considered to be defaming. Our advocate will be appealing against the judgement.”
The maximum conviction for defamation is two years. While Dr Reddy had asked for compensation against defamation, the court took the view that the five students were from poor financial background and no financial penalty was levied on them.