The Saurashtra University on Wednesday suspended two ad-hoc assistant professors and a clerk of the physical education department after women students levelled allegations of physical and mental harassment against them. The varsity’s internal complaints committee (ICC) is investigating the matter.
University vice-chancellor Nitinkumar Pethani suspended assistant professors Vikram Vakani and Bhagirathsinh Rathod and clerk Pruthvirajsinh Rana with immediate effect pending inquiry against them.
The action comes after a woman pursing masters in physical education filed a complaint with the office of the V-C, alleging harassment by Vakani on July 10. A few days later, another woman from Upleta of Rajkot district filed a complaint, alleging that she had to leave the course midway in 2019-20 following harassment by Vakani and Rathod. Since then, the varsity has received two more complaints against the two professors and the clerk, Pethani said.
“Soon after the complaint was received against Vakani, we had initially suspended him for 15 days while the complaint was directed to the ICC for an inquiry. The subsequent complaints received five days later were also forwarded to the committee. In the course of the inquiry by the ICC, prima facie evidence of serious misconduct is emerging. Therefore, we have suspended Vakani, Rathod and Rana on Wednesday till the time ICC submits its report,” the V-C told The Indian Express.
Pethani said that the women students had alleged that the two professors were unduly harassing them by subjecting them to physical punishment like running or playing some games despite regular sessions having got over. One woman even alleged that Vakani would send messages on her phone late night and insist on a response.
The two professors and the clerk are working on ad-hoc basis on 11-month contract. Their contracts had ended in April this year but the varsity had extended their contracts till end of September as new recruitment process was not possible due to the outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic.
Incidentally, this for the second time that Vakani has faced action by the varsity for alleged misconduct. His contact was terminated in 2014 also after he was accused of fielding two dummy students in a sports event. the V-C said that the two Vakani and Rathod have completed at least three 11-month-long contract cycles with the SU.
Contractual employees with the Gujarat government lose their contracts in case of proven misconduct. When asked by The Indian Express if the same rules are applied in case of Vakani, Rathod and Rana, the V-C said, “We have taken a decision to suspended them pending inquiry against them.”
Incidentally, the SU had terminated services of Professor Nilesh Panchal of bioscience department in June last year after a doctoral research scholar accused him of sexual harassment and an inqiury committee found the professor guilty. Professor Rakesh Joshi of department of economics is is also on suspension on charges of sexual harassment.
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