Eighty current and former Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) faculty members have written to the Vice-Chancellor on two recent cases of alleged sexual harassment, citing his “abject failure to take immediate administrative action as per existing law and statute to ensure that women students on this campus feel safe”.
The matter pertains to the eight FIRs against Professor Atul Johri, as well as “the leaked correspondence of an ICC inquiry” on allegations of sexual harassment against another professor.
“In both the cases, it is apparent to us that non-coercive conditions for the delivery of justice have not been created by your administration and the ICC. Serious allegations of victimisation and pressure on the complainants and their witnesses have been made, yet not only does the university remain insensitive and utterly callous, its actions are perilously close to an active encouragement for the victimisation of complainants and their witnesses,” the teachers, including economists Jayati Ghosh, Prabhat Patnaik and former JNUTA president Ayesha Kidwai have written.
“In the past, the GSCASH’s mandatory issuing of an Order of Restraint to every person charged has accomplished a large part of these objectives. We are aghast to learn that the ICC… has not even bothered to issue a restraint order, let alone do its job as set out by the JNU ICC rules,” they said.
Teachers said one of the cases was a result of “serious breach of confidentiality”. “An email to your office and the ICC has been leaked, and it appears that the source of the leak is either in your or the ICC’s office. We expect the ICC be held accountable for its failure for its shocking lapses, and specifically, that the persons responsible for the extremely serious violations of section 16 of Sexual Harassment in the Workplace Act of 2013 be proceeded against formally,” they wrote.
“In the case of Atul Johri, where the complainants have spoken out and the full extent of the problems are known, you must recognise how specific both the risks and the consequences of the students and ex-students having made a complaint against their supervisor is… the students’ research work is funded entirely by Atul Johri’s grants, starting right from the chemical reagents used in the experiments to the instruments used. Given the continued access that Atul Johri has to the lab, the students’ experiments, the School of Life Sciences building, the campus, his colleagues, your administration’s actions are tantamount to a perpetuation of the context of harassment that the complainants allege they have lived in for several months to years,” they said.
Teachers demanded that Johri be placed under “immediate suspension”, he be “restrained from evaluating the work/performance of students he supervises”, his entry into the campus banned and that he be “restrained from contacting the complainants, their witnesses, or their families.”