The Bombay High Court on Tuesday directed IIT-Bombay to issue PhD degree to a research scholar as soon as he submits the apology letter to an assistant professor at the institute, who lodged a sexual harassment complaint against him last year. Last week, the HC had pulled up the researcher, stating that he can express his views but cannot make personal comments on the woman’s personality.
The petitioner, a research scholar pursuing PhD, has completed his MPhil and is designated as Senior Research Scholar by the institute. He is also allowed to stay in the hostel, located on the campus. The petitioner has sought directions that his PhD degree, withheld by the institute, be handed to him.
On Tuesday, after the HC was informed that the matter has been resolved, a division bench of Justice S C Dharmadhikari and Justice Gautam Patel said the petitioner has forwarded the apology, which has been accepted by the institute and the assistant professor.
The bench added that as soon as the apology letter is given by the petitioner, the institute should issue the degree. The petitioner, in the apology letter, said he had “no intention to insult any woman, much less, professor…(assistant professor), individually or as a woman”.
According to the petition, in December 2017, posters with the slogan “Stop Hindutva Terrorism” were placed outside the boy’s hostel mess in the institute. The petitioner, in an email to the dean in April 2018, objected the tone and tenor of speech by one of the professors, who had allegedly criticised Hindus.
The petitioner alleged that the woman professor, by an email on April 19, 2018, invited him for an informal meeting to discuss the issues arising out of the complaints and protests lodged by him. To this, the petitioner replied that “she is a lady of virtues” and the petitioner is “full of respect for virtuous women”. He added that he would not be afraid of meeting her.
He alleged that in order to teach a lesson to the petitioner, the reply was wrongfully and highhandedly construed as “sexist remarks” against her.
The woman professor lodged a complaint of sexual harassment at the workplace and it was referred to the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). While the complaint was lodged, the petitioner had successfully appeared for his viva-voce for his Phd thesis in April 2018.
The petition states that while the inquiry had not begun, the chairperson of ICC wrote an email to the HOD of HSS directing to withhold all clearances of the petitioner pending inquiry. After the inquiry, the ICC last year said that “it finds merit in the complaint” filed by the woman professor and directed the petitioner to tender an apology in a particular manner and text which was prescribed by the ICC. He was further directed to attend a session for gender sensitisation.