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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Giving Prof Johri clean chit in sexual harassment cases, JNU ICC says he might need protection

Eight women had raised allegations against him, committee says Johri poses no threat to them.

Written by Aranya Shankar , Pritam Pal Singh | New Delhi | Published: January 9, 2019 12:31:42 am
Giving Prof Johri clean chit in sexual harassment cases, JNU ICC says he might need protection Atul Johri’s lawyer RK Wadhwa talking with media at patiala court, (Express photo by Gajendra Yadav)

JNU’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) has given a clean chit to professor Atul Johri, against whom eight women students had made allegations of sexual harassment, saying he posed “no threat” to the complainants, and instead it was the complainants, along with others, who had threatened Johri and his family.

After allegations against Johri surfaced in March last year, the case went to the Delhi High Court, and Jawaharlal Nehru University was asked to inquire into them.

The ICC, in its report dated July 23 last year, said: “It is to be noted that complainants had good friendly relation with defendant and his wife and were celebrating birthdays and festivals together. This fact further strengthened the averment of defendant that allegations of sexual harassment are raised with ulterior motive. It is important to note that various ingredients of allegations of sexual harassment against the defendant by the complainants are proved wrong. However, since the complainants have refused to appear before the committee, therefore certain ingredients could not be ascertained.”

“Committee has observed that contrary to the apprehension of the complainants, it is complainants and their witnesses who, in association with other student leaders of JNU, have threatened the defendant, his family and his current student/research trainee,” the report said.

The report has been signed by six members, including ICC presiding officer Vibha Tandon.

The HC had on May 29 last year directed the ICC to examine material available on record, and place its report before the court, which JNU did in August last year. The matter is now listed for hearing on January 25.

The committee concluded that “the defendant is not a threat to the complainants or any other member of the JNU community”, that he is “not a threat to any witness and is not in a position to influence the witnesses or temper (sic) the evidence”. The ICC said that “all the apprehensions of the complainants in this regard are totally baseless and unfounded”.

“There is no case made out against the defendant, therefore, there is no need to remove the defendant from the campus. There is no need to suspend the defendant,” the ICC report said.

Among its 13 recommendations, the ICC said the administration should look into the complaint dated April 7, 2018 filed by Johri, wherein he claimed “students gheraoed his house, threatened his family and shouted derogatory slogans, pasted defamatory posters on walls, car, and other parts of campus”.

“EC Resolution of 2017 should be strictly implemented so that henceforth the defendant and his family are not detained, harassed and gheraoed in JNU. If need be, the defendant, his family should be provided with adequate security,” the ICC recommended.

It also said the administration should “appoint committee of lady faculty members who may visit the hostels and labs and can discuss issues with girl students and submit their report/recommendations to make the academic atmosphere better and to avoid any such incident in future which brings disrepute to the prestigious university”.

“Dean SLS should also discuss the issue with faculty members and get a framework to make the atmosphere of SLS more friendly for girl students to avoid any such incidents in future,” it said.

Advocate Vrinda Grover, who appeared for the complainants, said, “The report is totally perverse and the complainants will challenge it before the HC. The report is to protect Atul Johri.”

Johri’s counsel Amit Anand Tiwari said, “Since we have been given a clean chit, we will request the HC to set aside its earlier direction so that he (Johri) can be reinstated in his administrative posts.”

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