Accused government officials are entitled to get a copy of the complaint against them even if the allegations pertain to sexual harassment, the Central Information Commission has held.
While pulling up Delhi University for withholding records related to a complaint filed by PG students at GB Pant Hospital in Delhi against Dr Arun Lata Agarwal on the grounds that allegations pertained to sexual harassment, CIC said it could not “locate” any such allegation against her.
“In spite of repeated deep scrutiny, the Commission could not locate any point of allegation related to sexual harassment,” Information Commissioner Sridhar Acharyulu said.
Acharyulu said the Central Public Information Officer should have seen the rules and FAQs circulated by the Department of Personnel and Training to understand that officers accused of sexual harassment were entitled to have a copy of the sexual harassment complaint against them.
“...the CPIO cannot deny the disclosure of the complaint related information or papers to the accused officer. It was not correct for CPIO to raise this kind of contention,” Acharyulu said.
The case related to allegations of harassment levelled against Aruna Agarwal and her husband Sanjay Agarwal by nine PG students after which she was sent back to the Centre by Delhi Government.
Through the RTI application, Aruna Agarwal had sought the information related to the complaint and the inquiry from the University which refused claiming disclosure may hamper physical security of complainants and that it is held in fiduciary capacity.
During the hearing before CIC, the CPIO representing the University claimed that students had filed complaints against the Agarwal couple alleging sexual harassment and as per the law details about complaint and related information could not be given to the two doctors.
After perusal of communication between National Commission of Women and the University, the Commissioner said the students were complaining against Sanjay Agarwal alleging that he caused mental harassment, created vicious working atmosphere and continued humiliating behaviour.
Acharyulu noted that M S Bhatia, HOD of Psychiatry, referred to representation consisting allegation of ‘sexual harassment’ against Sanjay Agarwal and sought immediate action to suspend him.
“Most of the allegations (levelled by PG students) are about harassment by husband and wife together. The allegations made in 23 points do not consist any specific sexual harassment allegation against either Sanjay (husband) or Aruna Agarwal (wife) individually.
“Every allegation was made against both jointly. The complaints did not reveal any allegation that both of them together caused any ‘sexual harassment’,” Acharyulu said.
He said CPIO was not correct in alleging that complaints by nine students (both male and female) against husband and wife were of sexual harassment.
“Even if it is assumed that the complaint of PG students against supervising couple of is of sexual harassment, the CPIO cannot deny the disclosure of the complaint related information or papers to the accused officer,” he said as he directed disclosure of complaint.
He said when the complaint of nine students cannot be considered as complaint of sexual harassment, the contention of the CPIO that it cannot be disclosed will totally fail.
“The Commission considers, after due study of the sealed file which includes recommendations of NCW, that the complaint is not in nature of sexual harassment and that is why it was not referred to the Committee against sexual harassment. No committee was constituted to inquire into this charge,” he said.