While quashing dismissal of a senior professor at Indian Institute of Science over sexual harassment charges due to lapses in legal procedures followed, the Karnataka High Court has asked the Union government to conduct training courses for the institution on modalities for sexual harassment investigations and punitive action.
A single-judge bench of Justice P B Bajanthri issued the directions while setting aside the October 17, 2018 dismissal of the decorated scientist and professor Giridhar Madras. The IISc management had asked the senior professor to retire compulsorily after an internal committee found credence in a sexual harassment complaint brought by a doctoral student.
The judge in an order passed on August 6 ruled that “due to lapses on the part of Inquiry Committee and Disciplinary Authority, whole proceedings are vitiated till imposition of penalty’’. An inquiry conducted by an internal committee against sexual harassment at IISc and the “voluntary retirement” imposed on the professor are “liable to be set aside’’ due to the lapses, the court ruled.
The high court set aside the dismissal of Madras on the technicality that the IISc internal committee did not refer the sexual harassment complaint to the IISc council (the Disciplinary Authority) before launching its inquiry leading to the serious punishment as mandated by the Central Civil Service Classification (Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965 which governs employees at IISc, a centrally-funded institute.
The court also found lapses in procedure in the inquiry on the grounds that a copy of the complaint filed in November 2016 was not furnished within seven days to the accused and that an inquiry report was not given to the disciplinary authority within 90 days as laid out by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2014.
The court has said the IISc council could have imposed “the major penalty” of compulsory retirement only if procedure laid down under rule 14 of the Central Civil Service Rules of 1965 had been followed.
The court also observed that an apology given by the professor when the harassment complaint was initially filed was not an admission of the alleged crime.
“It is necessary to have refresher training programme to such of those Committee Members as well as Disciplinary Authority. In this regard, Govern-ment of India/Disciplinary Auth-ority/Experts like a trained persons should conduct programme to apprise how to conduct inquiry in a sexual harassment case,’’ the high court has stated.