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JNU Panel to Probe Harassment Charges Against Prof Atul Johri: HC

HC had earlier rebuked the JNU for not taking constructive steps to provide safe working environment for women.

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JNU’s School of Life Sciences professor Atul Johri was accused of sexual harassment by seven different students and one former student of the department.
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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday, 29 May, directed the Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) of JNU to probe alleged misconduct by a JNU professor, accused of sexually harassing women students, to decide whether to suspend him.

The court said in case prima facie misconduct is made out, the ICC shall make suitable recommendations to the university Vice Chancellor and also file a report in the court in three weeks.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher directed professor Atul Johri not to take charge as warden of any hostel in the university campus which houses women and not contact the petitioner women students and potential witnesses.

"In case of interaction, the vice chancellor will consider removal of the professor," the court directed.

The court was hearing a petition filed by several women students seeking suspension of the professor, against whom eight FIRs have been lodged alleging sexual harassment, and restraining him from entering the campus. The plea also sought the provision of a safe working environment for the students.

The court, which passed a slew of directions, said that separate supervisors be given to four of the petitioners, who are pursuing Ph.D.

It said the professor should not to visit laboratory no 409 of the Department of Life Sciences where the students work and the keys be given to them. In case Johri has some work, he may be given a separate laboratory.

The court asked the ICC to consider the material available on record, including the FIRs, and made it clear that the panel will not insist the women students to record their deposition before it.

"At this moment, I have left it to ICC to look at the material and take a call," the judge said and listed the petition for further hearing on 17 August.

The court had earlier rebuked the JNU for not taking constructive steps to provide safe working environment for women who have levelled sexual harassment charges against the professor.

The observation by the court had come after it perused a report of the fact-finding committee (FFC), set up by JNU to probe the alleged misconduct by the professor, which contained no findings.
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JNU, in its defence, had said the FFC cannot go into the issues of alleged misconduct by the professor or the sexual harassment complaints as these aspects will be examined by the ICC according to the central civil services rules.

Johri had claimed that some of the complainant students were asked to work harder and, in retaliation, they had levelled the allegations against him.

The court had, on 25 April, directed the JNU to treat the representations of women students as complaints and initiate a probe against the professor on charges of sexual harassment, while questioning the varsity for not taking any steps in the matter.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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