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Devansh Mehta on St Stephen's principal Thampu, the missing character certificate, and Columbia dreams

Durga M Sengupta | Updated on: 15 July 2015, 20:30 IST

Devansh Mehta, now an ex-student of St Stephen's College, Delhi University, is caught in what seems to be an endless battle with college principal Valson Thampu. Mehta had previously clashed with the principal over articles he had published in the college e-zine Stephen's Weekly, following which he was suspended from the college.

Mehta then, dragged his principal to court for banning the magazine and suspending him. In what came as a relief to the Philosophy student, the Delhi High Court put a stay on his suspension.

The latest update is that when Mehta received his official papers -- provisional certificate, character certificate, marksheet etc -- from the college, a crucial line mentioned in every other student's character certificate was missing. The missing line reads, "His/her character and moral conduct during his/her time in college has been good".

On discovering that the line was not absent in any of his peers' character certificates, and given that it is necessary for his future studies at Columbia J-School, he wrote to Thampu and other college authorities enquiring after it.

Devansh Mehta spoke to Catch from within the premises of Supreme Court, where he was present in connection with the St Stephen's molestation case.

DS: When you first received your papers from the college, did you ask the authorities why the character certificate line was missing from yours?

DM: No, I didn't immediately bring it up as I thought I'll talk to other students. Then I found out it's a complete anomaly. This has never happened before. I'm the only person to have not received a character certificate in the history of the college. Thampu is being vindictive and I'm being victimized.

DS: Have you mentioned this to Columbia J-School authorities?

DM: No haven't mentioned it to them as yet. I'm hoping something will work out. The High Court had previously asked me to figure it out [with the the college] as otherwise St Stephen's would be defamed. In fact, both parties have been asked to end it amicably.

Prior to the character certificate incident, I had sent two emails to Thampu to sort out differences. The second one was a follow up. I got no replies. But then the character certificate googly came up. It makes it clear that he isn't interested in a settlement.

I feel like he wants to get back at me. I'm trying to move on, go abroad. This just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

DS: Did your disagreements with Thampu start with the college magazine incident alone?

DM: It's just that. I know this because I've spoken to other students who were suspended. I once stayed in friend's hostel room while campaigning. This isn't allowed. I got suspended for a week for it. But I know that others suspended for consuming drugs and alcohol got a good character certificate.

DS: Prof SR Ayde previously found you guilty for breaching 'discipline'. Do you think the college can justify their action based on his report?

DM: The judge has put a stay on this report - Ayde's, that is. College cannot justify the character certificate based on his report. That would be contempt of court.

DS: Did the college finally confer the Rai Saheb Banarsi Das Memorial Award on you?

DM: The judge put a stay on the award. No other student received it either. I think it's a fair order. If another student were to get it and then I if I won the case, the award would have to be split. That would be unfair.

DS: Would the case hanging at the HC affect your Columbia studies? Would you have to come back?

DM: I'm hoping not. I'll be emailing Columbia about it. I need my leaving certificates, after all.

DS: Is there anything else you want to tell us?

DM: Yes, as I see it, two basic things happened here.

  1. Due procedure was not followed (to give certificate)
  2. The discrepancy itself with the certificate is unacceptable
First published: 15 July 2015, 20:30 IST
 
Durga M Sengupta @the_bongrel

Feminist and culturally displaced, Durga tries her best to live up to her overpowering name. She speaks four languages, by default, and has an unhealthy love for cheesy foods. Assistant Editor at Catch, Durga hopes to bring in a focus on gender politics and the role in plays in all our interactions.

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