In an unexpected development, a criminal case has been registered against Lekshmi Nair, Principal, Kerala Law Academy, for allegedly harassing a scheduled caste student by addressing him by caste name. It is pertinent to note that the State Human Rights Commission had earlier registered a case against Lekshmi Nair on reports of caste slur.
Since last week, across Kerala’s political and cultural forums, the name ”Lekshmi Nair” and “Law Academy” have been popping up, like sensational buzzwords.
Yes, the very same smiling Malayali lady who is popularly known for her Sunday morning cookery show on TV, is in the spotlight, but not for her recipes on the cookery show!
For those who live outside Kerala, this may be too much to deal with at one go. So, let us begin with the inevitable question: Who is Lekshmi Nair and why is she at the center of the Kerala Law Academy row? To understand this, we need to take a step back and see what makes Law Academy a premier institution of legal education in the state:
Founded in 1967, Kerala Law Academy Law College is one of the highly respected law colleges in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The founding members of this institution were legal wizards and proven legends in the field of law.
The names of those who are associated with the establishing this institution include many advocates of iconic status in Kerala’s legal history and are no longer living today such as Adv. S. Narayana Potti, Adv. Kalathil Velayudhan Nair, Adv Easwara Iyer, Justice VR Krishna Iyer, Adv. K Chandrasekharan, Justice Subramanian Potti, Adv M.M.Khader, Justice V Shivaraman Nair and others.
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This premier educational institution was formed as a society on 17th Oct 1977, with Adv S Narayanan Potti as the President and Dr. N. Narayanan Nair as the Secretary. It also became the first private law college in the state which had the accreditation of the Bar Council of India. The Academy was formally inaugurated in 1968 by an iconic and much revered Chief Minister – EMS Namboodiripad, flanked by the creme-de-creme of prominent lawyers, legal luminaries and academicians from across the state.
Now the issue is that student parties such as KSU (Congress), SFI (Left) and ABVP (NJP) are up in arms against Lekshmi Nair. BJP leaders had even embarked on a hunger strike against her, pitching for her removal as Principal. Matters had reached a simmering point to an extent that Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan stepped in to hold talks.
Meanwhile, Kerala University’s Syndicate sub-committee has taken a decision to debar Kerala Law Academy principal Lekshmi Nair from conducting examinations and internal assessments at the Academy for five years. The syndicate has conveyed to the Pinarayi Vijayan-led government to take a decision on the action against Lekshmi Nair on the basis of the sub-committee report.
The charges against Lekshmi Nair are grave and many, some of which are as follows:
1. Students are being harassed in the name of attendance and internal assessments. The name of Lekshmi Nair’s future daughter-in-law, as being an instigator, is also doing the rounds among agitating students. Several students complained of abuse on account of their color, caste name and appearance. Sick students were threatened and told that they would be asked to “get out” of the hostel.
2. CCTV cameras were installed in girl’s hostel, mess and corridors encroaching their privacy. Unbelievable as this sounds, cameras were placed in the corridors leading to bathrooms reveal the girls’ going to the bathrooms and coming out – a grave infringement of their right to privacy.
3.The Dalit students were abused on account of their caste names. They were asked to do work in Lekshmi Nair’s hotel and the wages for their work were given as internal assessment marks.
These allegations are just a tip of the iceberg. Lekshmi Nair has made it clear that she will not step down no matter what. While many may slam this as arrogance, the political patronage that the institution has enjoyed across decades cannot be underestimated.
With so many allegations coming to the forefront, it remains to be seen whether political clout will triumph over the Law Academy students agitation for Principal to step down. Let’s not forget: Lekshmi Nair is the daughter of Dr. Narayanan Nair – a force to reckon with in Kerala’s political and cultural circles. Simply put, no political party in the state usually messes with this iconic figure.