Published: 13th December 2018
Does an overturned sexual harassment complaint give JNU the right to have the student treated like a criminal?
The JNU PhD Scholar who had previously filed a sexual harassment case against her guide is now facing the threat of having her degree withdrawn
After the Internal Complaints Committee of the Jawaharlal Nehru University dismissed the complaint of sexual harassment by a PhD scholar as 'frivolous', the treatment of the student by the university has shocked students. According to a report in the Indian Express, the scholar who had her complaint called false, forged and misleading, was debarred from the university, her degree was withdrawn and she was escorted by security guards whenever she entered the campus.
The student lodged a complaint with the ICC on April 12 against her PhD guide, alleging that she was molested, sexually harassed and threatened by him. The ICC released its series of recommendations seven months later, on November 5, where it called the case frivolous.
The recommendations said that the student must be barred from the JNU campus, her degree should be withdrawn and she should never be employed at the university. It also reportedly said, "The complainant should be completely debarred from entering in the JNU campus. She shall not be allowed to take up any course or employment in the JNU in future. She should not be allowed to enter the JNU campus to attend any academic or non-academic proceedings. She should not be allowed to enter the JNU campus for her personal reasons whatsoever."
“In case the complainant needs to come to the JNU campus for the purpose of inquiry, she will have to give prior intimation to the Proctor Office…She will inform the chief security officer about her entry and exit from JNU campus. The complainant will be escorted by two female security guards," it added.
Now, The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 says that if the allegation is proven malicious or false, it may recommend actions to be taken against the complainant in accordance to the service rule. Therefore, we decided to take a quick look at the Jawaharlal Nehru University Act (1966). The act states that the student can be debarred or rusticated for a certain period only by the recommendation of the Vice-Chancellor. Now as far as the withdrawal of the degree, it says, "The Academic Council may, by a special resolution passed by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members present and voting, withdraw any degree or academic distinction conferred on, or any certificate or diploma granted to, any person by the University for good and sufficient cause: Provided that; no such resolution shall be passed until a notice in writing has been given to that person calling upon him to show cause within such time as may be specified in the notice why such resolution should not be passed and until his objections, if any evidence he may produce in support of them, has been considered by the Academic Council." Nowhere does it mention barring a student from entering the campus or being escorted by security.
Regardless of whether the decision is right or wrong, one has to wonder if the ICC's recommendations were in accordance with JNU's regulations. The recommendations by the ICC has been met with a serious backlash from the faculty and students of the university. The JNUSU has expressed its strong opposition to the decision and has decided to meet the Vice-Chancellor Dr Mamidala Jagadesh Kumar this evening, asking him to "reject the biased ICC report."
We reached out to two members of the JNU ICC, who denied a comment on this issue. The Vice-Chancellor was also unavailable for comment.