Chinmay loses his dog-fight with Monash University

Chinmay Naik, studying journalism at Melbourne’s Monash University had gone to Supreme Court over a failed assignment, claiming the university acted inappropriately in failing him.

His battle ground was a failed June 2017 video assignment about dogs in which he scored 12.  It was sent for remarking and when marked the second time, the score improved from 12 to 21. This was done by the university as a result of the system university has for all ‘fail’ results.  In the end Chinmay’s video assignment, despite having been marked twice, scored a fail result.

After knocking at various doors, when he did not succeed, he took the matter to the Supreme Court of Victoria on June 2018.

Funny as it sounds, Naik believes he’s not only fighting for himself, but anyone wronged by their university.

“I’ve heard from other students who were subject to similar controversial practices,” Chinmay told reporters after representing himself in court.

“After hearing their stories I felt like I was not just fighting a case for myself. It was for all of them.

“There will be a good precedent set if this matter goes to trial.”

Chinmay was failed for a video assignment about the negative stereotypes surrounding certain dog breeds and he wanted the Supreme Court to strike the result from his academic record and either declare a pass for that video or order that he be allowed to re-submit a new project.

Wondering how could a student go to court in such a case?

BT understands Chinmay’s challenge in court was his belief that the same examiner had marked the assignment on both occasions in 2017, and this he claimed breached the university’s policies and was “unlawful”.

This is not the first port of call for Chinmay to get the result he wants. Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman and Prime Minister’s Office were his earlier attempts where he did not succeed. In another application, the same matter still pending in the Administrative Appeals Tribunal(AAT).

Chinmay pleaded his case in a preliminary hearing before Justice Richards in Supreme Court and is hoping the matter going to trial.

On 12 October, Justice Malinda Richards, a judge of the Supreme Court hearing the matter, dismissed Chinmay’s application by refusing to extend the time of 60 days (from June 2017) within which he could file an appropriate application for a judicial review.

The judge took full cognizance of Chinmay’s mission of either scoring a pass or submitting a new and fresh assignment – going to various authorities and invoking various laws including Anti-Discrimination and Equal Opportunity laws. The judge also factored in Chinmay’s claim of mental disability and commenting on his doctor’s letter recommending break from studies, Judge Richards wrote:

“I have not overlooked the fact that Mr Naik has been diagnosed with an anxiety condition that affects his concentration and his ability to manage his time, and which he claims meant that he ‘could not gather the strength to lodge a judicial review application’. 

“The limited medical evidence does not support this contention.”

The doctor’s letter noted an increase in Chinmay’s anxiety symptoms ‘due to being in dispute with the University over an academic grievance issue’, and … recommended that he take a break from his academic studies while dealing with the grievance.

“To the contrary, there is ample evidence before the Court that Mr Naik has been able, since June 2017, to pursue his grievance with vigour and persistence”, commented Judge Richards.

By the end of November 2017 Chinmay exhausted all internal remedies offered by the university.

He then took his grievance to the office of the Victorian Ombudsman’s office. On 28 November 2017 Victorian Ombudsman’s office declined to investigate.  Chinmay pressed on with his grievance. On 9 March 2018 Victorian Ombudsman’s office conveyed to Chinmay (via an email) an offer from the University to undertake a second review of the video assignment, and invited him to re-submit the original video to be verified and reviewed.  Chinmay did not accept the University’s offer.

Justice Richard came to the conclusion that – had Chinmay filed the application within 60 days of June 2017, the relief he would have got would have been the same – for him to be able to re-submit the original video assignment for marking (the third time).

When this was offered by the University through Victorian Ombudsman’s office in March, Chinmay had chosen not to accept the offer.

Thus, Judge Richards refused Chinmay’s extension of time application and dismissed the case.

BT understands Chinmay has been ordered to pay the University’s legal costs.

-Shalini Singh


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