A visually-impaired assistant professor of the University of Rajasthan has alleged that she is facing workplace harassment in the university after she lodged a complaint against her colleague.
According to the professor, Vinita Nair — who works in the Department of Philosophy of Rajasthan University— the court of the commissioner, specially-abled people ordered the university to take action against Anubhav Varshney, a colleague of Nair, who is also an assistant professor in the philosophy department last month, following which, she has been facing harassment at work.
“After perusal of the complaint of the complainant along with the answers furnished by the respondent and examining the case, the case is being disposed of under rule 31 of the Rajasthan Rights of Persons with Disabilities Rules, 2018 wherein the respondent registrar of the Rajasthan University is directed to initiate disciplinary action against Anubhav Varshney and provide educational security and protection to the complainant,” said the court order dated February 4 and bearing the sign of commissioner, specially abled, Gayatri Rathore.
The order also directed the university to issue requisite directions and guidelines to ensure that nobody makes any comments about visually impaired/ specially-abled people after keeping in mind the respect of women.
The court order said that according to Nair’s application to the commission dated November 2019, she had alleged that Varshney had secured her signature against her will on a a no-objection certificate (NOC), related to the research registration of a student.
The court order states that in a final report about the incident, a committee constituted by the university stated that Nair has not presented any information related to Varshney allegedly securing her signature through manipulation. The order further states that the committee tried to resolve the issue by speaking with both sides but after no consensus could be formed, it recommended the court to give both sides adequate opportunity for a hearing and take a decision.
It was after this that the court ordered disciplinary action against Varshney.
Nair has also written letters to the Chief Minister’s office alleging harassment after the order was passed, following which, the higher education department has directed the registrar of the Rajasthan University to take requisite action and intimate the department.
“I feel pained that even after letters from the CMO, education minister, Governor house, higher education department and a clear judgment from the commissioner, disabilities commission, the university is not taking any action against the accused. I have to face harassment at my workplace every day. Especially, the head of the department (HOD), who despite the verdict, is protecting Varshney and is not impartial,” Nair told The Indian Express.
Varshney and the HOD, Arvind Vikram Singh, denied the allegations.
“The allegations of Vinita Nair are completely baseless and false. The recent decision of the Disability Commission is an ex-parte decision. I was not a party to the case. The Commission never summoned me and other witnesses and made an ex-parte decision against me. I have filed a petition with the Commission to review its decision and I’m confident that after the Commission listens to me and goes through the documents and evidence, the decision will be reviewed,” said Varshney in a statement.
“Three successive reports were sent to Disabilities Commissioner by the university. In each report her charges were dismissed, the university also officially communicated to the commission that no action is possible in this regard as there is no fact in her allegations,” said Varshney.
Varshney denied the charges of Nair being harassed and said that they have been investigated by the Rajasthan University Women’s Association which has found the case not to be of harassment.
“The allegations of Nair that she is being harassed are false. Her allegations about the NOC are false because she didn’t have authority to grant any NOC,” said HOD Singh.
Rajasthan University Registrar Kajod Mal Duriya told The Indian Express that a decision on any disciplinary action against Varshney will be taken by the vice chancellor.
“We have received a copy of the judgment of the specially-abled commission. The matter is in process and with the vice chancellor who will take further decisions on it. There are different types of disciplinary action. We will do all arrangements to ensure that Nair doesn’t face any problem at the university,” said Duriya.
Head constable Ramdev Singh from the Gandhi Nagar police station said both the parties were called to the police station and were heard.
“We have received an application from Nair and the other side has also levelled allegations. After inquiring we have learnt that the university is taking further action in the matter. We have told the university that if needed, we will investigate and take necessary action,” said Singh.
Nair said that even after the judgment, there is no change in the harassment.
“Now, even students are being incited against me. My fight is for a good working condition where I and people like me could get equal opportunity, reasonable accommodation and the fearless environment to work, grow and prove our abilities,” said Nair.