The Delhi High Court Wednesday sought to know from Jawaharlal Nehru University and its Vice-Chancellor why have they not taken action against professor Atul Kumar Johri, accused by eight women students of sexual harassment, despite representation to the authorities in this regard.
“What is happening, you have not been able to do anything. Is it that the V-C of the university has no power to take action against the professor,” Justice Rajiv Shakdher asked the counsel for JNU, who told the court that the students have not filed any complaint before the varsity’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). The varsity’s counsel also submitted that the alleged victims have approached police. This prompted the judge to ask the JNU counsel: “Are they (JNU) not aware of the FIRs lodged in the case?” It also said there are various alternatives for the alleged victims under the law, besides approaching the ICC.
“I am not saying that take action without hearing the professor. At least interim measures can be taken. You can advise the professor that till the investigation is completed into the cases against him, he should stay out of the campus,” the court observed orally. “Give him preliminary hearing and pass the order,” the court said, adding that the women are complaining that they are not safe in his presence.
It also posed a query to the Delhi Police, which was represented by advocate Satyakam, on whether any cognizable offence was made out against Johri in their investigation till date. The Delhi Police counsel told the court that it had recorded statements of the students before a magisterial court, which shows more than a cognizable offence against the professor.
The court also asked JNU to treat representations of the women students as complaints for initiating action against Johri, and directed the Delhi Police to show the statements of students recorded before a magistrate to the JNU V-C on April 27, so that he can initiate preliminary enquiry against the professor.
It also issued notice to JNU, its V-C and Delhi Police on a plea filed by several women students seeking suspension of professor Johri. The court also issued notice to the professor on the students’ petition seeking restriction on his entry into the varsity campus. The parties were directed to file their response by May 2.
During the hearing, the students’ counsel Vrinda Grover informed the court that eight FIRs have been lodged against the Department of Life Sciences professor, based on complaints from eight students. The advocate also submitted in court that the accused is in a dominating position and the students don’t feel safe. It was also alleged by the students that the professor may destroy evidence in the case, so he be asked to stay out of JNU campus till investigation is concluded. Johri, who has in the past denied the allegations, was arrested in March and granted bail by the court.
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