Controversy over improper dress, Bengaluru law students attend classes wearing shorts


Students of the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bengaluru resorted to unique protest on Thursday after one of their female batchmates were admonished by a professor for turning up at the institute in shorts.

Few days after the student in question was given public dressing down for her choice of clothing, the students turned up at the university in shorts.

“In solidarity with the student concerned, and as a mark of protest against the professor, we choose to exercise our right to personal expression and comfort by wearing shorts to the class of the professor concerned,” said a post in Facebook on behalf of the students of third year B.A., LL.B. (Hons).

The post by one of the students, according to PTI, said the professor had admonished the student before the entire class by asking her to dress properly.

In a statement, Vice-Chancellor R Venkata Rao said, “A faculty meeting is being convened on 11 April to discuss the incident.”

The student in question, like various other students, had worn shorts to class. On noticing the shorts, the Professor allegedly chastised the student before the entire class by asking her to “dress properly,” she said.

When the student approached the professor, V Nagaraj, and raised objections regarding his statement, she was again rebuked and was exposed to a plethora of ‘untoward’ comments, the Facebook post alleged.

The professor also cast aspersions on the character of the student, she alleged and added that as a consequence of this incident, the aggrieved student has asked the Vice-Chancellor to look into the matter.

Here is the ‘statement of condemnation’ issued by the students on this episode;

As many students of the III year batch of B.A., LL.B. (Hons.), NLSIU, we issue this statement strongly condemning the extremely shameful incident in which a Professor has made inappropriate remarks to a III year student in our presence.

We are extremely aggrieved about the fact that:

a. The Professor publicly shamed the student for the clothes she chose to wear, and

b. The Professor cast aspersions on the students character for voicing her concerns.

The incident under protest is as follows:

The student in question, like various other students, had worn shorts to class. On noticing the shorts, the said Professor chastised the student before the entire class by asking her to “dress properly.” The student was deeply uncomfortable with the remark, as were many of us, since we do not think it is correct for a teacher to impose his/her notions about appropriate clothing upon the students. The student in question, who was scolded by the said Professor, thought it necessary to further discuss the matter with him and not to overlook it as another instance of moral policing. Upon approaching the teacher and raising objections regarding his statement, the student, to our dismay, was again rebuked by the Professor and was exposed to a plethora of untoward comments.

In the presence of many of us, the Professor went to the extent of drawing an extremely distasteful analogy as to why the student should not wear shorts and said, “We all know why parents marry their children off – so that they can have sex. Just because the parents marry off their children for this reason, it does not mean that the children have sex in front of their parents.”

Needless to add, we were all stunned into silence on hearing a distinguished member of the faculty make such a crude comment. The student was appalled at this reasoning and respectfully objected to the same. The Professor then proceeded to cast aspersions on the character of the student. He denounced her credibility entirely and went on to state,“You can come to class without a dress also. That is how your character is, I’m going to ignore you.”

This incident left the student in an uncomfortable position with her character being called into question by the said Professor because she attempted to question his method of public censure. As a consequence of this incident, the student has been extremely aggreived and has asked the Vice-Chancellor to look into the matter and we hope that action will be taken by him against the said Professor.

We find such behaviour extremely unacceptable, especially coming from a Professor, who students are expected to consider as a role model. NLS has taught us to value discourse above everything else and to be tolerant of individual choices. The behaviour highlighted above goes against the spirit of this institution. Therefore, we believe it is imperative that such aberrant actions be denounced by the University as a whole with immediate effect. We also demand that a public apology be issued by the teacher in question to the concerned student and the institution as a whole.

In solidarity with the concerned student, and as a mark of protest against the Professor, we choose to exercise our right to personal expression and comfort by wearing shorts to the class of the concerned Professor. However, we would like to clarify that this statement is not merely against moral policing, but also, in particular, against the derogatory remarks made by the Professor.”

Nagraj later told website Lgeally India, ”

“Nothing like [what is described in the statement] happened. Students are making false and baseless allegations. It is for the university authorities to examine this incident. This is the first time that students have made such a statement [whereas] I have been teaching for 27 years.

“I had already informed the vice chancellor and the registrar, by email, when the incident happened on Monday. Then I reminded them on phone. But the VC is out of station and the university has taken no action so far so it has become a free for all,”

The NLSIU sexual harassment committee’s former in-charge, Prof VS Elizabeth told Legally India;

“As someone who has been guilty of having reprimanded at least one woman student in the past and then brought to realise how sexist my attitude had been, by the batch of 2017, I must say that it is important that all of us, particularly, faculty should think before we make comments, particularly should not be casting aspersions on people’s character based on what they wear or don’t wear. After all the amount of cloth we use to cover our bodies does not proportionately reflect our morality. Many sexual abusers of children and women most certainly wear more clothes, does it mean that they are more moral than the rest of us?

I realised during the classroom discussion that took place, at least two years ago, that the problem was with my attitude and not with the young woman who wore those micro mini shorts.

I have never liked my colleagues’ comments about what I wear or don’t wear and have always opposed any dress code being imposed on the faculty, though there have been colleagues who wished to do so. I am really sorry that one of my colleagues said things that are unwarranted and caused pain to one of the students.

This sort of thing should not happen in an institution like ours.”