The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has decided to replace the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), a 18 year old body, with an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), citing UGC regulations. For this, the university has put a stay on elections to the body, which were to be tentatively held in two weeks.
The move has drawn criticism from teachers and students alike. The GSCASH, which was constituted by JNU in April 1999, varies from the ICC in that members to the former are elected, whereas ICC members are nominated by the administration.
The composition of GSCASH includes four elected faculty members of whom at least two are women, four elected student representatives of whom at least two are women, and one elected woman officer as well as one elected woman staff members, among others.
However, in the ICC only three student representatives would be elected, other than that three faculty members and two non-teaching would be nominated.
This, both teachers and students said would make the body susceptible to administrative influence. The JNU Teachers’ Association has also argued that the GSCASH is already complaint with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace
The JNU Teachers’ Association has also argued that the GSCASH is already complaint with the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, and that a simple change in nomenclature would have been enough.
In a letter dated September 12, JNU Registrar Pramod Kumar said, “Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act, 2013) and the University Grants Commission (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal of Sexual Harassment of Women Employees and Students in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2015, as notified by MHRD on May 2, 2016, provide for constitution of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) replacing the existing mechanism of GSCASH. The UGC Regulations, 2015 are mandatory for all Higher Educational Institutions (HEI).”
“In this connection, the University has decided to constitute the ICC after discussion on this issue in the last Executive Council meeting. The matter for adoption of the Government of India Act 2013, UGC Regulations 2015 notified by Ministry of Human Resource Development in May 2016 will be taken up at the Executive Council meeting to be held on September 18. In view of the above, all components of the University, the teachers, students and staff, are hereby informed that any election to GSCASH hereinafter called as ICC, should be kept on hold till further notice,” he added.
However, the JNUTA said it “strongly opposes this attempt to stack the complaints committee with VC’s nominees, and thereby to influence the course and findings of inquiry committees”.
“Substituting these rules with an institution-blind set of abstract regulations, which do not contain any concrete instructions for inquiry, penalty, sensitisation, is an attempt at erasure of the history of the JNU community’s two-decade long effort at furthering gender justice on this campus. The JNUTA will not allow this to happen,” said JNUTA president Ayesha Kidwai.
JNUSU president Geeta Kumari, a GSCASH member herself, said, “The attempt to throttle the institution of GSCASH and subordinate it to administrative diktats will be robustly rebuffed.”
JNU Register and Rector did not respond to repeated calls and texts by the Indian Express.