BHU Reconsiders Bringing Back Prof Accused of Sexual Harassment

‘Your chest has nothing’ the BHU professor who made remarks such as these to his women students is back on campus. 

4 min read
Image used for representational purposes. 

The Banaras Hindu University (BHU) has decided to reconsider its decision of rehabilitating a senior professor of the University’s Zoology Department, who had been accused by multiple third year students of sexual harassment last year.

“Till the time, the Executive Council reconsiders it, the professor is directed to proceed on long leave (sic.)” the circular read.

The move comes after the students at the university staged a protest on the night of 14 September.

BHU students called off their agitation on Sunday night after authorities assured that the matter would be reviewed.

A photo from last night’s protest.
A photo from last night’s protest.
(Photo Courtesy: Priyesh)

Post the allegations, the University’s Internal Complaints Committee had taken cognisance of the case and started investigating the matter in October last year.

A photo from last night’s protest.
A photo from last night’s protest.
(Photo Courtesy: Priyesh)

A few months later, the ICC found him ‘guilty’ on all accounts and recommended the ‘strictest possible punishment’ for the accused.

A photo from last night’s protest.
A photo from last night’s protest.
(Photo Courtesy: Priyesh)

In August 2019, however, the University set up an ‘Executive Council’ presided upon by the Vice Chancellor. The EC decided to dismiss the ICC’s recommendations and gave the accused professor a clean chit instead.

“The Executive Council in our University is like the Supreme Court, the decision that it gives is the final one. I have not seen the ICC report or its recommendations yet but the EC has not found him guilty and hence he has been brought back to teach.” 
Rajesh Singh, BHU PRO

Nature of Allegations

According to the ICC report which is being shared extensively on social media, the accused had accompanied a group of students on an educational tour to Puri. Taking undue advantage of the informal setting, the professor sexually harassed women.

“One night while we were all dancing, he came to one suggested vulgar dancing steps. He would stare at a woman’s chest and say things like ‘You have nothing in your body’. Once on the trip, a survivor was sitting at the shallow side of the beach, he came and held her from the waist. He slid his hands inside her clothes and said, ‘I have now seen everything, even the things that I shouldn’t have.’ When the survivor asked him what he was doing, he said there was ‘sand stuck in the back side of her body’ and that he wanted to clean it.”

The ICC took cognisance of these complaints and found him guilty on all accounts, recommending strict punishment be meted out to him. The ICC further concluded that the professor would use sexually loaded terms even during class and that the same should have been previously checked.

‘Feel Let Down’

“When we got to know about the details of the incident, we gave a written complaint to the ICC. Despite our complaints, nothing happened. In future, how will anyone have the courage to call out their harassers?”
BHU Student
“We are the ones who just want to study. When a teacher looks at us, we immediately bow our heads and we finally found the courage to speak up but were let down by the University.”
BHU Student 

Yet, the University decided to bring him back. Although the women can file an appeal against the decision, they are scared to do so.


Internal Complaints Committee: What Law Says

The Quint spoke to lawyer Jyotica Bhasin, an expert on the law against sexual harassment at the workplace and a member of many ICCs, to understand the decision taken by BHU.

“The ICC has the rights of a civil court. An executive council cannot superimpose any judgment given by the ICC. An educational institution falls within the definition of the term ‘workplace’ as per the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2013 and so, no body can superimpose its decision over what the ICC has recommended.”
Jyotica Bhasin, Senior Advocate

The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act) was enacted as a comprehensive legislation to provide a safe, secure and enabling environment free from sexual harassment to every woman.

An establishment which has ten or more employees is required to constitute an ICC by an order in writing by the employer.

“In 2017, when some girls came out on the streets to protest against the rampant sexual harassment that they faced everyday at BHU, they were slapped with baseless charges because of which their education suffered. It isn’t easy to stand up against the establishment here.”
BHU Student

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