"I did not fit into the principal's stereotype of what a Dalit woman should be like because I was outspoken," said a former ad hoc assistant professor at Delhi University's Daulat Ram College who had alleged caste discrimination against her by the reputed college in August 2020.
She had accused college principal Savita Roy of firing her without notice and discriminating against her on the basis of her caste.
However, her plea was not taken up by the sessions court nor was her complaint registered by Delhi Police. Now, two years on, an FIR has been registered against the principal and Delhi University Registrar Vikas Gupta.
At the behest of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes, Delhi Police on Monday, 23 May, registered a case for discrimination and forgery under various sections of Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
Sagar Singh Kalsi, Deputy Commissioner of Police (North), told The Quint, "Earlier, we did not have enough evidence to file an FIR. She had then approached the National Commission of Scheduled Castes – and there was new evidence. On orders of the commission, an FIR has been filed and the investigation is underway."
The FIR has been filed under Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy), 465 (forgery), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using a forged document or record) of the Indian Penal Code, and Section 3(u) (promoting feelings of ill-will, enmity or hatred against a member of the SC/ST community, through words or signs) and 3(2)vii (committing any offence under this section as a public servant) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
‘I Faced Casteist Slurs, Was Removed Without Reason’
The complainant joined Daulat Ram College as an ad-hoc assistant professor of psychology in 2019. She took offline classes for around six months after which the pandemic struck and the classes went online.
"In the midst of the first wave of COVID-19, I was fired without any show-cause notice. The principal then hurled casteist remarks at me when I confronted her," she tells The Quint.
While she hails from Tarn Taran in Punjab, she has spent the last few years in Delhi. She adds,
"Ever since I had been fired, my family was under a lot of stress. My sister and I were taking care of our parents. My father passed away during the second wave. It was a very difficult year for us."
The principal did not respond to The Quint's request to comment on the FIR. However, Roy had earlier told Hindustan Times that several students had complained about the assistant professor and even stopped attending her online classes, forcing the college to take the decision about terminating her. Daulat Ram College, too, reiterated in a statement that she was removed because of complaints from students.
In 2021, the professor had approached the High Court, where her appeal was dismissed, relying upon a letter written by students, highlighting unsatisfactory performance by the petitioner. She had then approached the sessions court under Sections 156 (3) of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPc), seeking directions to the SHO concerned to register the FIR under the relevant sections. The sessions court did not take up her plea either.
The professor's lawyer Mehmood Pracha told The Quint that the principal had initially produced a complaint against her, purportedly by an anonymous student, as grounds to fire her. "No teacher is removed solely on the basis of a student complaint,” he adds. Later, the college produced the complaint with signatures of 35 students.
"When the Commission asked the college for the reason for her removal, they produced a complaint against her, with signatures from 35 students. It was then proven, as per the college’s own records, that those 35 students had not studied under her."Lawyer Mehmood Pracha
In his defence, DU Registrar Vikas Gupta told Hindustan Times that he wasn't aware of the FIR, and that he was "not in charge when the issue was first raised."
According to him, the hearing before the National Commission of Scheduled Castes is slated for 30 May.
A Two-Year Struggle to File Case
According to the complainant, she was removed from the college without any prior warning in August 2020. Earlier, she had alleged discrimination owing to her social activism.
"Between 2020 and 2021, she approached the court but did not get refuge. She then filed a complaint at the Maurice Nagar police station," Kalsi said.
The professor says:
"There were many days when I thought I should give up trying to get a case registered. But with the help of my advocate, who is a true Ambedkarite, I kept fighting."
"She faced discrimination from the principal who is an upper caste. Starting from the way she speaks to the way she dresses, the principal did not like how she was breaking stereotypes. And so, she wanted to remove her. But her record was impeccable," Pracha told The Quint.
In 2021, her case found online support from students and activists alike.