The Delhi High Court Friday sought the response of the Jawaharlal Nehru University on a plea seeking quashing of the varsity’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) report, which has given a clean chit to professor Atul Kumar Johri, against whom eight women students had made allegations of sexual harassment.
Justice Suresh Kumar Kait also sought a reply from Johri on the women’s plea, which has sought direction to JNU to take appropriate action in removing the professor from the campus.
The court asked them to place their stand before May 3 on the plea, which alleged that the ICC does not have the power to conduct an inquiry into the sexual harassment allegations but only into the preliminary issue of suspension of Professor Johri pending criminal investigation and trial.
Following an FIR by the students in March 2018, Johri was arrested and then granted bail by the trial court. Later, the women had moved the High Court seeking suspension of the professor, and to restrain him from entering the campus. In their plea, they sought directions to JNU to provide a safe working environment for students.
The HC had in May 2018 directed that Johri, a professor at JNU’s School of Life Sciences, cannot become a warden of any of the women’s hostels. It also asked the JNU’s ICC to enquire into the allegations and place their report before the court.
“In case a prima facie case of misconduct is made out, the ICC shall make suitable recommendations to the VC (JNU),” the May 29, 2018 order had said.
On receiving the fresh petition in the matter on behalf of the students, the court Friday said that since the same covers all subsequent developments, the earlier petition is disposed of.
As reported by The Indian Express earlier this month, the ICC, in its report dated July 23 last year, had said that Johri posed “no threat” to the complainants, and instead it was the complainants, along with others, who had threatened Johri and his family.
The women’s counsel Vrinda Grover challenged the ICC finding and argued that the “findings, conclusions and recommendations of the report are on the face of it perverse, contradicted by material independent evidence, vitiated by mala fides and bias”.
“The report also falls foul of the binding principles of natural justice in arriving at findings and recommendations,” Grover said, and sought that no consequential action be taken by the JNU administration against the women research scholars in pursuance of the report.
Senior counsel Vijay Hansaria and advocate Amit Anand Tiwari, appearing for Johri, opposed the women’s contention and said that they have participated in the ICC proceedings, and even the complainants have been examined before delivering the report.
JNU’s counsel Ginny J Rautray also said 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.