Among the faculty appointments that Banaras Hindu University Vice-Chancellor G C Tripathi tried to push through at a meeting of its Executive Council Tuesday was the regularisation of Dr O P Upadhyay’s appointment as Medical Superintendent of the Sir Sunderlal Hospital on the university campus. One of the EC members objected, saying Upadhyay had been convicted of sexual harassment by a Fiji court.
The order, accessed by The Indian Express, records what a 21-year-old Fiji woman, who brought the charge against Upadhyay, said in her testimony before a magistrate at Nasinu in January 2013: “He (Upadhyay) held my hand and insisted I should see the house. When we reached his room, he said I should come and sleep in his room. It was in Indian Hindi. He held my shoulder… rubbed my thighs… and kissed my cheek again.”
This incident took place on August 25, 2012, months after Upadhyay moved to Fiji on deputation as Advisor to the Vice-Chancellor of Fiji National University (FNU).
The Nasinu magistrates court convicted Upadhyay of “indecent assault”. His counsel appealed in 2014 but the High Court of Fiji upheld the conviction order.
While holding Upadhyay guilty, the Nasinu magistrates court, in its order, said: “In this case, the accused first kissed her cheek. The victim thought that was a welcome kiss. The accused held her shoulder. Then accused invited to see his house, when they were walking the accused informed she can sleep with him in his house. Thereafter, the accused touched her breast and thighs. Touching the breast and thighs of an unknown firstly seen woman on that day clearly indicates indecent intention. This constitutes the indecent assault… When I evaluate the evidence, I have no doubt in my mind that the prosecution proved its charge beyond reasonable doubt.”
Contacted by The Indian Express Tuesday night, Upadhyay said: “The university (BHU) had taken legal opinion in my matter and it was decided that the decision of a court abroad does not hold good in our country. Hence, I was interviewed and selected by the selection committee. I was on study leave (in Fiji). It was a case of extortion and because I resisted, I was falsely accused.”
The Indian Express emailed a questionnaire to the Director of Prosecution in Fiji but there was no response until Wednesday night.
According to official records, Upadhyay filed an appeal through his counsel before the High Court of Fiji at Suva. In his appeal, he challenged the magistrate’s order and argued that the “sentence against the appellant is harsh and excessive in all circumstances of the case”. The hearing before the High Court took place on March 24, 2014 and the judgment was announced June 12, 2014.
In the order, the High Court judge said: “I have carefully read the court record and learned magistrate sentencing remarks. In my view, he applied the correct law and procedure. He identified the correct tariff of 1 to 4 years imprisonment for indecent assault. He identified the aggravating and mitigating factors. He started with 18 months imprisonment. In my view, the sentence was not harsh and excessive, and I accordingly dismiss this ground.”
After he returned to India, Upadhyay was handed charge as Medical Superintendent of Sir Sunderlal Hospital in April 2016. According to orders issued by the Registrar of BHU, Upadhyay was given additional charge since he was the most senior chief medical officer at the university.