Trouble may escalate for St Stephen's College principal Valson Thampu after a research student on Thursday released audio recordings of him purportedly asking her to withdraw a sexual harassment complaint against a professor.
The complainant released four sets of audio clips in which Thampu allegedly influenced her to water down her complaint. The victim, a PhD student has handed over these recordings to the police.
“Trust in God. You have to take that complaint back, If you don't do it today itself there will be complication ( sic), " Thampu is heard telling her.
Another clip has the accused faculty member, chemistry professor Satish Kumar, allegedly offering to write her PhD and ask his friends to chip in. Both he and the principal assure her they will make sure she completed her PhD on time.
HT could not independently verify the contents of the clips, which the student claimed she recorded on her mobile phone during meetings in the principal’s office on January 7, 10 and 9.
New audio clip claims St Stephen's principal asked for withdrawal of complaint
Thampu did not respond to calls and an email from HT. The mobile phone of the accused faculty member, chemistry professor Satish Kumar, was also switched off.
The student had filed a police complaint on June 19 accusing Kumar of molesting her in October 2013 and of sexually harassing her for months before that.
In her complaint, she also accused Thampu of trying to hush up the matter. Following the controversy, Kumar stepped down as bursar and moved the Delhi high court alleging that the victim had concocted the story.
“The recording will prove my innocence. It is clear in the recordings the principal first tried to convince me to make the complaint an internal matter and in the next meeting he slyly suggested that if the matter is to be an internal matter then I have to remove the words sexual harassment,” the complainant told HT.
According to the transcripts, the student asked Thampu: “So, if I withdraw my case, what do I have to give you in writing?” The principal’s reply: “Give me another statement for the complaint saying that I faced some difficulties.”
He then reportedly went on to suggest the complainant remove the term sexual harassment, saying, “If any reference to sexual harassment is there… I am already at fault, I should have passed it on (to the internal complaints committee) yesterday.”
Accusing Thampu of “double speak”, the young woman told HT, “The principal… tried to confuse me and very subtly tried to protect the harasser and the college image. The case was of sexual assault and Thampu should have taken strict action right away to protect my dignity and not threaten and talk me out of it.”
In the recordings, Kumar is heard justifying why ignored her calls for months.
"See the problem is this, this is a new area and I, I, I generally do organic chemistry. …I know how to carry out experiments ...but lack the theory portion. I am not well versed with the theory.. so sometimes it’s a problem for me also to understand the basic things,” he said.
The 27-year-old research student is heard protesting against Thampu's purported suggestions to drop the sexual harassment case.
The complainant told HT that another professor at the college advised her to record the conversations on her mobile phone.