Professor Makhan Lal, who was suspended from Delhi Institute of Heritage Research and Management (DIHRM) on allegations of sexual harassment in 2004 and later sacked, has now been reinstated “with all consequential benefits”.
Prof Lal rejoined DIHRM on November 21 following an order issued by Delhi L-G Najeeb Jung who recorded his “severe displeasure” at the way the historian was kept out by the then Delhi government under Sheila Dikshit, disregarding a note from the then L-G Tejinder Khanna.
On January 6, 2010, Khanna had pointed out that Prof Lal had to be reinstated as the disciplinary action against him was not initiated by the relevant authority, in this case the L-G. Khanna reiterated that view in a note on April 22, 2010.
But the Delhi government had, in the meantime, sought advice from the then Attorney General of India Goolam Vahanvati who noted on July 28, 2010 that the L-G was not the disciplinary authority for Prof Lal but “the Board of Management of DIHRM”.
On August 16, 2010, DIHRM’s Vice-Chairman K K Chakraborty, on behalf of the board, issued orders for the “removal” of Prof Lal.
The action against Prof Lal was based on reports from a National Commission for Women (NCW) panel of Nafisa Hussain and Nirmala Sitharaman, who is now a Minister of State, and an internal panel of the Guru Gobind Indraprastha University, following a complaint filed in November 2003 that he had allegedly passed lewd remarks in the presence of girl students.
The complaint alleged that Prof Lal told the students, who were travelling to Khajuraho and Bhubaneshwar that “girls must carry their bikinis if they want to enjoy the beaches of Puri”.
He is also alleged to have told two girl students: “Jab mein jharne se guzarta hoon tab mein nanga ghoomta hoon, kapde apne haath mein liye hue (When I pass through a waterfall, I do so naked and with my clothes in my hand).”
When contacted, Prof Lal denied the allegations. “The allegations against me were politically motivated and part of a conspiracy hatched by my professional opponents,” he said, adding that his reinstatement had nothing to do with the arrival of a new government at the Centre.