Cruel injustice

The dismissal from service of a professor in college in Kerala who was attacked by religious fanatics two months ago, raises disquieting questions about the extent of retribution that an offender should be subjected to. Professor T J Joseph has already suffered badly for his offence. His palm was cut off by the attackers and he suffered indescribable physical and mental agony in the last few weeks. Though the severed palm has been grafted back to the hand, he may not be able to regain full use of it. He had made a reference to the name Mohammed in a question paper for students. It was taken to be a reference to the Prophet and was therefore considered blasphemous. But he has many times made it clear that the reference was not to the Prophet. In any case he has apologised for the unintentional hurt he has caused.

It is surprising therefore that the college management sought to inflict more injury on him by terminating his services. The college has defended its action by reasoning that it was based on the recommendation of a committee that went into the issue. The committee called for disciplinary action against the professor but dismissal is punishment and not disciplinary action. Disciplinary action had already been taken against him when he was placed under suspension. He was arrested in the wake of the controversy and is facing legal proceedings. He may be punished by the court if the charges against him are proved. But the college management has no right to prejudge the case and hold him guilty before the court decides the matter. If his attackers took the law into their hands by brutally attacking him, the management has also shown scant respect for law.

The matter is not just one of legality but of propriety too. A person who went through such a horrendous experience deserved better treatment and sympathy. His treatment was expensive but he received help from others. Now his livelihood has also been taken away from him. The management should have taken a humanitarian view of his plight and considered action against him only after his guilt is proved. What did it gain any way by its action? What is the principle that it wanted to uphold? It has only invited widespread criticism and condemnation by striking at a person who is already hit and wounded. In no way is it justifiable.

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