While refusing to interfere and quash an ongoing internal sexual harassment committee’s proceedings against a faculty member of the Madras Christian College (MCC), Justice S Vaidyanathan of the Madras High Court on Friday observed that there is a “general feeling” among parents, especially those of girl students, that “coeducational study in Christian institutions is highly unsafe for the future of their children”.
The court was hearing a petition by assistant professor Samuel Tennyson to quash findings of the internal committee against him and a consequential second showcause notice issued to him on May 24.
The alleged harassment, according to a petition signed by 34 students, occurred during an academic tour to Bengaluru, Mysuru and Coorg earlier this year.
Justice Vaidyanathan also raised the question of “innocent masculinity”. The order stated that it is time the government consider suitable amendments in laws “to prevent its misuse, so as to safeguard the interest of the innocent masculinity”. It cited instances of misuse of the anti-dowry law, and stated that it is easy to misuse since “women will find it hard to resist the temptation to ‘teach a lesson’ to male members and file frivolous and false cases”.
Justice Vaidyanathan observed in his order, “Christian missionaries are always the source of attack in one way or the other, and in the present era, there are several accusations against them for indulging in compulsory conversion of people of other religions to Christianity”.
Justice Vaidyanathan said: “Now, there is a general feeling amongst parents of students, especially female students, that coeducational study in Christian institutions is highly unsafe for the future of their children, and though they impart good education, the preaching of morality will be a million-dollar question. As long as a religion is practiced in streets in lieu of its worship places, like temple, mosque, church, etc, such devastation, as in the present case, does occur and will be mushrooming.”
Refusing to entertain Tennyson’s petition, the court said there is a justification in the act of the committee and that there was no violation of the principles of natural justice by the committee, and that the court finds no infirmity with its report.
Justice Vaidyanathan said the court does not want to go into the question of “who is at fault in the present case” but, at the same time, “it has become imperative for this court to indicate that several enactments were brought into force for safeguarding the interest of women and we have to ask…whether those laws are invoked by women with genuine reasons”.
Earlier, after the college began an inquiry on the complaint by the students, Tennyson moved the court, seeking to quash a showcause notice issued to him.
He maintained that certain documents and statements about the inquiry, to be used in his defence, were not provided to him. The college argued that they had given him sufficient opportunity to defend himself and to cross-examine the complainants.
In July 2014, Justice Vaidyanathan had stated, while hearing a case of forgery of land documents at a sub-registrar office in Chennai, that criminal punishment for those involved in forgery should be chopping off of the arms.
He had said, “I came across an article that Iran has unveiled its latest innovation in criminal punishment — a machine that cuts off the fingers of thieves, and it is being used for cutting off the fingers of culprits by a court of Shiraz. For having committed forgery, this court is of the view that such a stringent punishment of chopping off fingers should be awarded to the petitioner…. Unfortunately, in our country there is no stringent law…”
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