Former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) proctor and Padma Shri awardee linguistics professor Anvita Abbi said the degree of punitive actions taken against a student for allegedly filing a false complaint against her PhD guide were “draconian” and would “ruin her future”.
On Wednesday, The Indian Express had reported that JNU’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) has taken a series of punitive measures against the complainant in a case of sexual harassment against her PhD guide. These included barring her from campus; recommending the withdrawal of her degree; prohibiting her from taking employment in JNU; and asking her to apologise to the defendant in the case.
The JNU Students’ Union, too, wrote to the V-C Thursday demanding that the recommendations be withdrawn, and the university go back to reinstating the Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH).
“In my experience, sometimes it is possible that students exaggerate (the nature of crime). But the measures (taken by JNU ICC) are unbelievable.
When I was the proctor, there was no separate committee to look into sexual assault cases. This was before the GSCASH was instituted in JNU. But even when we found someone falsely accusing another person, we never took such extreme measures such as rusticating students and denying them a degree and character certificate. This will ruin her (complainant’s) future,” Abbi told The Indian Express.
Before GSCASH, the proctor handled cases. Abbi has served as the chief proctor during the tenure of former V-Cs Y K Alagh and Asis Datta.
She added that students would usually be warned, or, at most, rusticated for a semester: “Unless they have proof beyond doubt, they (ICC) cannot take such an action… Moreover, it is imperative to share the full report with the complainant and the defendant. This current episode smacks of very insensitive teachers, because they are teachers at the end of the day.”
In their letter to the V-C, the JNUSU said the “ICC, since its inception, has been functioning as nothing but a khap panchayat, giving extremely regressive ‘verdicts’,” and that the current move was “atrocious” and had “undone the long struggles of gender justice on this campus”.
“The administration, in its 269th Executive Council meeting held on September 18, 2017, ordered dissolution of an independent body — GSCASH — which has been a model for many universities in India since its inception in 1999… ICC inquiries follow no due procedures. Decisions are made according to the whims and fancies…. ICC has, till date, not done anything other than sheer intimidation of the complainants…,” said JNUSU president N Sai Balaji.
“The latest case only exposes the ICC further…. Our fight is to restore the body of GSCASH,” he added. ICC chairperson Vibha Tandon did not respond to calls and messages seeking a comment.
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