Published: 21st May 2019
Atul Johri incident: Delhi HC seeks JNU's reply on plea by students who were sexually harassed
Justice J R Midha issued notices to the university, its vice-chancellor, professor Atul Johri and Delhi Police on the early hearing application and listed the matter for consideration on July 2
The Delhi High Court Monday sought JNU's response on a plea by several women students seeking an early hearing on a contempt petition filed against the varsity and a professor who is accused in a sexual harassment case.
Justice J R Midha issued notices to the university, its vice-chancellor, professor Atul Johri and Delhi Police on the early hearing application and listed the matter for consideration on July 2. The court also called for the records of the main petition on the next date.
The students sought early hearing after the court on May 3 listed the contempt as well as the main petition for hearing on October 31. In the main petition, the students have challenged the clean chit given by JNU's Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to the professor.
The ICC report of July 23 last year followed the high court's May 29, 2018 direction to the committee to find out whether a prima facie case of misconduct was made out against the professor to suspend him from the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for the women students, said there was urgency on hearing because the petitioners are scholars who will not be able to complete their PhD if not given access to the laboratory. She said the contempt petition has been filed against JNU, its vice chancellor and the professor for allegedly "willfully disobeying" the earlier directions of the high court given in its orders of May 29 and May 2, 2018.
The plea said the court had directed that Johri will have no access to a particular laboratory and the authorities will give complete access of the laboratory and separate keys to the students. It said the petitioners have learned that on the request of Johri, the executive council of JNU in February allowed him access to the laboratory in School of Life Sciences and delegated teaching responsibilities back to him.
The plea sought contempt proceedings against JNU, VC and Johri and that the resolution passed in the EC's meeting be stayed. The court had earlier sought the response of the police on an application by the students seeking direction for filing of charge sheet expeditiously in the sexual harassment case lodged against Johri by them.
The application claimed there was a real and grave apprehension that any delay in completion of the investigation will make witnesses, most of whom are young research scholars and students, professionally and socially vulnerable to influence and intimation by the professor.
The plea said FIR was registered and statements of witnesses were recorded more than a year ago, but no charge sheet has been filed by the police. The lawyers for JNU and the professor had argued that the ICC has found the complaints of sexual harassment made by the women to be "malicious" and that they had allegedly motivated and instigated others to file such complaints.
The professor's lawyer had also argued that the women have "taken revenge" against him for being a "tough taskmaster". Johri was granted bail on March 20 last year, hours after his arrest by the police.
A few weeks ago, an SLS student told Edexlive that Johri comes to the school every day, just to show that he is invincible. This had apparently caused a lot of worry among students, especially the complainants.