The Allahabad High Court on Wednesday stayed the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) directions to IIT Kanpur to lodge a police complaint against four professors for allegedly harassing their Dalit colleague. The court said this was beyond the scope of the Commission’s powers. A two-member bench comprising Justice Krishna Murari and Justice Ashok Kumar on Tuesday said, “Till further orders of this Court the effect and operation of the impugned order dated 13.4.2018 passed by the National Commissioner for Scheduled Castes, shall remain stayed.”
It has given the respondent’s counsel two weeks to file a counter-affidavit, and the petitioners another two weeks to file another affidavit in response. It also stayed the subsequent orders taken by the IIT administration against the professors though “it shall be open to the administration of the respondent no.2 to take an appropriate decision in accordance with law, if they so desire, in respect of disciplinary proceedings to be initiated against the petitioners, without being influenced by any observation of the respondent no.1 Commission in the impugned orders,” the bench said.
The NCSC on Friday had asked the institute to lodge a police complaint against four professors for “caste-based harassment and discrimination” under the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act. The recommendation came after a three-member panel led by APJ Abdul Kalam Technical University Vice-Chancellor Vinay Pathak and the NCSC found Dalit faculty member Subrahmanyam Saderla’s allegations of harassment at the hands of Ishan Sharma, Sanjay Mittal, Rajeev Shekhar and Chandra Shekhar Upadhyay to be true.
The counsel for the four professors submitted to the court that about the Dalit professor’s complaint to the NCSC that “cognizance has been taken without issuing any notice or opportunity to the petitioners”. The petitioners had also submitted to the court that the Commission had directed that “the Chairman of the IIT, Kanpur, Board should consider suspending the four petitioners. The Secretary, Ministry of Human Resource and Development has been required to stay the appointment of the petitioner No.4 Dr. Rajiv Shekhar as Director I.I.T.-ISM, Dhanbad. There is further direction to remove the petitioners from the membership of Departmental Faculty Affairs Committee (DFAC) of the Arrow Space Department.”
The bench said, “.from the supplementary affidavit filed today on behalf of the petitioners we find that a so-called recommendation of the Commissioner has been carried out treating it to be a direction and the two petitioners have been replaced from DFAC. Thus, the apprehension expressed by the petitioners that the impugned order, even if are recommendatory in nature are being treated as directions, cannot be said to be unfounded. The issue is one which requires consideration.”