The internal regulator of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) has cleared two professors named together in two different complaints of sexual harassment — and instead, issued identical warnings to the complainants for “advertising” the issue.
In separate recommendations following probes in both the cases, JNU’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) concluded that “no case of sexual harassment” could be made out against Mahendra P Lama and Rajesh Kharat. Lama is a professor at the Centre for South Asian Studies, where Kharat was former chairperson. However, both sets of recommendations contain the same warning in identical paragraphs.
“It was observed during the proceedings that the complainant herself was advertising about her complaint on her Facebook and through other electronic media and informed the public at large. Hence, the complainant should be issued a warning to not indulge in such act in future because this kind of act by any of the complainants, defendants and witnesses damages the inquiry procedure and the affected parties. This kind of a public propaganda also damages the image of the institution,” it reads.
When contacted by The Indian Express, the ICC’s presiding officer, Vibha Tandon, declined comment. Kharat did not respond to requests seeking comment. The complainants could not be reached for comment.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Lama said: “It was a fake and frivolous case lodged by non-performing students in collaboration with non-performing teachers.”
The first complaint relates to an alleged incident in 2013, and the second to an incident last year — the complaints in both the cases were registered in January this year. The probe report, along with the ICC’s recommendations, in the first case was submitted on June 29, and in the second case on July 25.
In the 2013 complaint, the ICC concluded that “no case of sexual harassment is made out against Lama and Kharat”. In the 2017 complaint, too, the ICC found “no case of sexual harassment”.
In the second case, however, the ICC noted that there was an “administrative lapse” on the part of Lama for denying the complainant a No Objection Certificate (NOC) for changing the supervisor. It noted a similar “lapse” on the part of Kharat for not discussing the complainant’s application for a change of supervisor in the faculty meeting.
In the 2013 complaint, the ICC concluded: “Professor Mahendra P Lama was a strict teacher who wanted his students to work hard and perform up to mark, which cannot be termed and/or understood as sexual harassment at all. The complainant could not complete her thesis on time and also it is clear from the deposition of the complainant that on the basis of some rumour she developed “Lama phobia”, which triggered the present complaint. It is also clear (Lama) gave NOC to the complainant without delay for the change of supervisor.”
On the same complaint, the ICC observed that “Kharat did not perform his duty of maintaining the records and files of the PhD students properly. But this act of Kharat cannot be termed as sexual harassment in terms of the Act”.
In the 2017 complaint, ICC recommended that Lama and Kharat be “censured”. Lama was censured for “creating uncertainty by not giving NOC to complainant as well as directing (the) complainant to de-register against her will”.