A new fact-finding committee has been formed by the Panjab University vice-chancellor to look into the cancellation of PhD and fellowship of a woman research scholar of the Department of Sociology.
The scholar, however, has alleged that the committee has at least three members who had favoured a resident of the PU campus against whom she had lodged a complaint of sexual harassment in 2017. The complaint was then investigated by the Panjab University Committee for Sexual Harassment (PUCASH) and declared false, leading to the cancellation of her PhD and fellowship.
On Thursday, the scholar requested the V-C to form an independent committee in the matter. “I have come to know of the committee from reliable sources. I had earlier requested that an independent committee should be formed consisting of persons who have no conflict of interest, direct or indirect, with the university,” she wrote. The research scholar further stated that it had come to her knowledge that the committee included PUCASH Chairperson Prof Pam Rajput, Registrar Col GS Chadha (Retd) and former Dean of University Instruction (DUI) Prof Meenakshi Malhotra.
“They all have a direct relationship with the person against whom I have lodged a complaint and Prof Arun Kumar Grover. Prof Rajput is a relative of the mother of the accused while Prof Malhotra was the one who wrote to the UGC (University Grants Commission) to cancel my fellowship even after a stay from the Punjab and Haryana High Court on the cancellation of my PhD. Col Chadha has also not signed any of my documents to date,” wrote the complainant, adding that if these members were part of the committee, she could not expect an impartial inquiry.
A copy of the letter was also marked to DUI Prof Shankarji Jha, who said, “Yes, a committee has been formed by the V-C. But since both the V-C and I are new in office, we don’t know much about the case. The V-C has formed the panel solely to look at the facts so that we know who is in the wrong here.”
The scholar had also lodged a complaint against former V-C Prof Grover on July 20, alleging that he had intimidated her and tried to favour the accused.
While the complaint against Prof Grover was taken up during the Syndicate meeting on September 23 and referred back to the Chancellor’s office for forming an internal committee, the complainant’s PhD and fellowship cancellation were not discussed as the item not on the agenda. Sources said the Syndicate had not commissioned the new panel.
The complaint against Prof Grover is under Section 3(2) of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. It deals with interference in a woman’s work or creating an intimidating or offensive hostile work environment.
“Strange things happen at Panjab University. Even after almost two years and an assurance by the new V-C, the authorities and governing bodies are not ready to give justice to a student whose right to education was snatched by the previous V-C. Has the university been unable to find any fact in over a year? How and when will the system become transparent and effective to provide justice on time?” said Senator Prof Jagdish Chander Mehta, who is also the PhD guide of the complainant. Prof Mehta was the first to raise the matter in the Senate last year.