An inquiry report submitted by a three-member fact-finding team of National Commission for Women (NCW) has found Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL) guilty of gender discrimination, infringing right to privacy of students, and impulsive behaviour among others.
This comes more than a month after students of Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL) at Patiala had protested for six days with both girls and boys alleging passing of sexist remarks, harassment, discrimination between boys and girls for library timings, etc and suspension of six students after they complained of poor food quality at hostel mess. Taking cognizance of a complaint submitted by students on March 19, a team headed by Chandramukhi Devi, chairperson of the committee, conducted an inquiry into allegations of students.
The protest had ended on March 19 after Punjab advocate general Atul Nanda had negotiated with students and varsity gave in written accepting all their demands which included probe against administrative officer Captain (retd) SP Singh whom students accused of passing sexist remarks, same library timings for boys and girls, revoking suspension orders of six students and electing a students body. But girls continued with their complaint to NCW following which team visited campus and probed. The report (copy with The Indian Express), says that the team met six suspended students who complained that a professor forcibly took the mobile phone of one of them and password to check photo gallery after they complained of bad quality of food. They were asked to leave campus without giving any hearing or written suspension orders.
The team also met girl students at hostel who revealed that “girls are pressured to stay back in rooms and parents are informed about petty issues, leave register is maintained only for girl students, if a girl is late by a minute she is denied access to hostel, girls are asked questions about their physical relations by varsity gynecologist, complaints of sexual harassment are not dealt seriously…” among others. The five student representatives told probe team that they were never informed about any ICC (Internal Complaints Committee) which an organization must form to deal with sexual harassment cases as per Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013.
The NCW probe report in its observations, says that there is no redressal mechanism in place for students and authorities failed to solve issues of students, students and teachers both were unaware of legal remedies available for sexual harassment cases, varsity never held any interactions or seminars to aware them about ICC, some faculty members did impulsive behavior with students and passed rude remarks and taking away mobile phone of a student and accessing gallery is infringement of right to privacy.
In its recommendations, NCW has written that university administration needs to be more sensitive to gender issue and rules for both boys and girls must be same at all levels, ICC must function properly in campus, separate grievance cell for students be set up, right to privacy must not be infringed, complaint boxes be installed, seminars on sexual harassment awareness held and vice- chancellor be open to holding interactions with students. NCW has also ordered varsity authorities to keep it in a loop over inquiries pending against faculty members or officials.
An independent inquiry against Captain (retd) SP Singh is being conducted by Manjot Kaur, additional district and sessions judge, Patiala and till then he is on compulsory leave. In a statement issued on Tuesday, students said, “We are thankful to NCW for this report. We have engaged four lawyers to represent us and handle inquiry against SP Singh. We have been told to produce witnesses in front of Manjot Kaur but students are very scared of appearing in front of her fearing that once identities are revealed, revenge will be taken by the administration. Even now we are facing threats from faculty who are making a mockery of us about failing in exams, calling our parents, etc.”
Confirming receiving NCW report, V-C Paramjit Singh Jaswal said, “Majority of recommendations given by NCW are already being followed. We do conduct awareness seminars and interactions on sexual harassment. SP Singh is on compulsory leave till the inquiry is ongoing and now both boys and girls can access the library till midnight.”