Ragging Culture: Looking Back At The Death Of Aman Kachroo That Pushed For State-wise Measures

As the death of a first-year student at Jadavpur University brings back the focus on India's ragging culture, Outlook looks back at the case of Aman Kachroo from 2009.

Students of Bhopal National Law Institute University have been expelled for ragging

While ragging continues to spark controversies, and institutionalised measures fail to completely curb the incidences of abuse against students, the Aman Kachroo case remains a chilling reminder of how a young bright medical student lost his life to ragging in 2009.

It is also one of the most widely publicized cases of ragging in India which marked the beginning of a country-wide movement against ragging, and also Supreme Court intervention for effective measures by the University Grant Commission (UGC), state governments, and heads of educational institutions.

The case highlights the dangers of ragging and the importance of creating a safe and conducive environment for students within educational institutions.

The 19-year-old Aman Satya Kachroo, a first-year MBBS student at  Dr Rajendra Prashad Medical College, Tanda (Kangra), a government college in Himachal Pradesh, died on March 8, 2009, a day after he was subjected to ragging in the hostel by his four seniors— all second-year MBBS students.

Aman Kachroo died after succumbing to injuries sustained following a brutal beating by the seniors who had entered his hostel. The next day, Aman Kachroo had also filed a written complaint to the college authorities but that was too late to save his life. 

His post-mortem report was prepared by a team of senior doctors at Indira Gandhi Medical College (IGMC), Shimla.

Later, the Himachal Pradesh government passed legislation, the Himachal Pradesh Educational Institutions ( Prohibition of Ragging) Act in 2009 banning all sorts of ragging in educational institutions and prescribed an imprisonment of three years and a fine of Rs 50,000.

Aman Kachroo's death sparked outrage across the country which shook parents. They sought exemplary punishment for the accused and demanded action against the college authorities for failure to stop ragging in the institution.

The Himachal Pradesh government suspended the college principal and ordered an inquiry into the incident.

Aman Kachroo’s father Rajendra Kachroo eventually became the face of a nationwide campaign against ragging. Further, he formed an NGO—Aman movement, as he also meticulously followed the trial in his son’s death case at Dharamshala until the four students, identified as Ajay Verma, Navin Verma, Abhinav Verma, and Mukul Sharma, were convicted by the court of Additional District and Sessions judge on November 11, 2010.

Justice Judge Purinder Vaidya held them guilty of violating Sections 304 II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder), 452 (house-trespass after preparation for hurt, assault or wrongful restraint), 34 (common intent) and 342 (wrongful confinement) of the Indian Penal Code. They were sentenced to four-year Rigorous imprisonment, besides imprisonments for other offences to run concurrently.

The Himachal Pradesh High Court later upheld the trial court's judgement and also enhanced the fine on each convicted student from Rs 10,000 to Rs 1 lakh.

In 2012, the youths were released from jail after three years as the state government remitted their sentence giving them the benefits of good conduct waiving nearly 45 to 60 days imprisonment.

Former Superintendent of Police in Kangra and a senior IPS officer, now serving as IGP in the BSP, Atul Fulzele, recalls, "This was one case in my career as a police officer, which had a lot of emotions attached. On one hand, we had tragically lost a young bright boy Aman Kachroo and on the other hand, four seniors (MBBS students) were facing arrests, trials, and impending convictions/jails at the beginning of their careers. Yet, the law took its course.”

“Aman Kachroo’s father, who followed the investigations and trial very closely, even attending all case hearings, was also kept in the loop on all developments. Finally, the boys were convicted on the basis of strong evidence,” he recalls.

However, after the remission of their sentence, the youths approached Himachal Pradesh University to allow them to complete the MBBS. Permission was later granted by the state government with a condition that they would not be eligible for government jobs.