The Kerala High Court Wednesday said that if the object of curfew in women’s hostel of educational institutions is to ensure the safety of women inmates, then it should be the men who should be locked up [Fiona Joseph & Ors. v State of Kerala & Ors].
Single-judge Justice Devan Ramachandran said that imposing curfew on women’s hostel will not serve any purpose and nothing can be gained from mistrusting the women students.
“Lock up the men, I an saying (this) because they create trouble. Put a curfew for men after 8.00 pm. Let Ladies walk out,” the judge remarked.
The judge further said that Kerala is yet to be free from archaic norms, underscoring that older generation should not be allowed to take such decisions.
“How long can we keep our students locked up? Think, Kerala has not grown up and our students are required to be kept locked up. So be it, if that’s what society wants. Let not these decisions be taken by people who belong to a different generation. As the saying, every generation is like a new country, we do not have any right to keep laws on the new generation,” the Court observed.
The bench made the observation while he was considering a plea moved by five female MBBS Students and office bearers of the College Union of the Medical College Kozhikode.
The petitioners approached the Court challenging a Government Order(GO) issued in 2019 that prescribed a condition restricting the entry and exit of hostel inmates of higher education colleges after 9.30 pm, without any reason.
The plea contended that the 9:30 pm deadline is only intended to be a suggestive and not a mandatory one. The restrictions currently in place in their hostel are also beyond the scope of statutory powers given under Section 42 of the Kerala University of Health Sciences Act, it was argued.
“A perusal of the restrictions imposed in Exhibit P2 (GO) would reveal that the same is nothing but attempt to impose the moral paternalism by the 1st respondent on the students of all professional colleges across the State”, the plea said.
The petitioners also challenged several clauses of the Ordinance for Recognition of Hostels in affiliated Educational Institutions under Kerala University of Health Sciences that set certain fixed times when the students have to study and can use the study hall.
“The petitioners who have attained the age of majority ought to be given the freedom to chose the mode or manner in which they intend to study as long as it does not cause any disturbance to others,” the plea stated.
The judge during hearing said that he is calling upon society to think about it and is opening the issue for discussion, if needed.
“When we shut down things like during the Covid times. There were not many crimes other than the crimes within houses. All the frustration was taken on women within the houses. Always the attack is on women. I understand that mental health went down. Open up the city, but make it safe. So the state has the issue to ensure at least the campuses are safe. Parents are scared “of” their children, they think children will be spoilt if left out after 9.30,” the Court said.
Talking about restrictions put on women in society, the judge opined that women also have to live in society.
“What benefit have we gotten by locking them up in the last centuries? Do you really think that things are better now? It Is far worst is a general opinion. What have we gained by mistrusting our children, nothing really?,” the judge questioned.
The Court clarified that it has no problem in imposing restrictions as Article 19 is not absolute. However, such restrictions must apply equally for all men and women and not one gender.
“We keep rules for the hostel but relax it for men. That gives the impression that the girls are the problem for all concerns. That is all (that) I am telling. I am not accusing the government, government is the reflection of society. When all parents want their daughters to be locked up, how can the government tell no to that?”