FIVE YEARS after a 45-year-old municipal school principal in Amravati registered a police complaint about being sexually harassed by a senior colleague, the Maharashtra State Human Rights Commission (MSHRC) has directed the Amravati municipal commissioner to initiate a departmental probe against the official. The accused has also been directed to pay the complainant Rs 50,000 as compensation for “physical and mental trauma”.
In 2014, the complainant first approached the Amravati Municipal Corporation with a written complaint of sexual harassment against her senior, then a school inspector. The municipality allegedly did not act on her complaint. As the harassment allegedly continued, she approached the local police station where a FIR was registered in March 2014. In June 2016, she wrote to the MSHRC against the municipal corporation’s alleged inaction.
She has alleged that over the last five years, her career growth has stalled, and that she was forced to resign from the principal’s post and work as an assistant teacher, to evade harassment. She has also claimed that her increment was stopped.
Documents related to the complaint, accessed by The Indian Express, show that the corporation transferred the accused from the post of school inspector and made him an assistant teacher. The MSHRC has observed that disciplinary action should have been taken after an FIR was filed and later a chargesheet under Section 354 (man who assaults or uses criminal force on woman) and 354 A (sexual harassment) was lodged against the official.
“I was forced to file a police complaint after his advances continued and my written and verbal complaints to the commissioner yielded no result,” the former principal told The Indian Express.
In March 2014, then aged 40, she had been appointed the principal of a municipal school. The accused, then the school inspector, visited the school for inspection and asked for her contact number. “It started with phone calls at night. He would start an obscene conversation,” she said. On March 14, 2014, in an inebriated condition, the accused allegedly went to the teacher’s house and tried to force himself on her. She filed a police complaint two days later.
In her complaint to the MSHRC, she had stated that the accused continued to harass her by asking her for sexual favours. Two months later, she resigned as principal and started working as an assistant teacher in the same school.
“As a principal, I was forced to regularly interact with him. When the corporation did not help me, and no woman officer supported me, I realised I had to resign. I would go to school, teach and return home,” she said.
On April 22, 2014, the accused allegedly again forced his way into her house and misbehaved with her. The teacher’s husband, a police officer, was posted elsewhere then. On his advice, she approached MSHRC in June 2014.
When contacted, a police officer said that a chargesheet was filed naming the accused and a trial is underway.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Additional Municipal Commissioner Mahesh Deshmukh said that they do have an internal committee to hear complaints of sexual harassment.
Anil Kolhe, the education officer in Amravati, said that the accused handled establishment work of schools and therefore, interacted with principals frequently. “He was transferred towards the end of 2014. We also consulted our law officer, who opined that as the police are investigating the case, we will wait for law to take its course. That is why no disciplinary action was taken,” Kolhe said, claiming that Vishakha committee’s guidelines were followed in the case.
He said that the complainant was called twice for a probe but she did not come. The teacher, however, said: “I was tired of visiting the education department regularly. They did not take interest. That is when I sought other options.”
Asked about her increments being stopped, Kolhe said that it was an unrelated matter. “She was taking a lot of leave,” he added.
Observing that “pendency of criminal case can never be considered as a bar for proceeding under departmental rules against the culprit”, MSHRC member M A Sayeed directed the Amravati municipal commissioner on December 27, 018, to initiate a departmental inquiry against the accused. Amravati education department officials said that they are waiting for the SHRC order copy before taking further action.
Despite attempts, the accused could not be reached on his phone and did not respond to text messages.