The UT police on Tuesday booked University Business School (UBS) chairperson AK Vashisht and a senior faculty member, Prof Dinesh Gupta, on charges of sexually harassing, assaulting and threatening a woman assistant professor at the department.
The case, termed by many as an ego clash, has come as a shocker, arguably the first such at Panjab University (PU). In her complaint on May 1, backed by a witness affidavit from a clerk, the assistant professor has alleged that at the UBS on April 11 Gupta pulled her by the arm and Vashisht spoke to her in unparliamentarily language.
Even as sources said the UBS chairperson and she had only got into a verbal argument over her coming late for group discussions as part of the ongoing admission process, she alleges she was kept away from the process deliberately. The son of faculty member-senator Karamjit Singh was to appear for the GD, she noted, "Now, that student's rank is first after the GD. Just because he is the son of a powerful senator…How could the result be declared when my complaint is still pending?"
It was the UBS chairperson who had first taken the matter of the confrontation to vice-chancellor Arun Kumar Grover's office, where it was decided to keep the complainant out of the admission process. A meeting was then held at the UBS on April 15, where the V-C and several senior functionaries including Madhu Raka, dean of university instructions (DUI), sought to calm the situation and asked the UBS chairperson to take back the assistant professor on the admission board. At this, members including the chairperson resigned from the board, so the V-C went back to keeping the assistant professor out.
An inquiry was, however, ordered. It was then that the assistant professor leveled the sexual harassment allegations. The inquiry at the varsity is still pending, though DUI Madhu Raka, who is a member of the panel examining the case, said it was unfortunate that "a small tussle has turned this big". "Till now we haven't found anything substantial in the case. I will hold a meeting on Wednesday and decide on further course of action," she said.
PU Teachers' Association president Mohammad Khalid said the matter was a shock, adding, "Ego clashes happen, but they should not be taken to such a level. I am short of words, and only after a discussion with other executive members would I state PUTA's official stand." Registrar AK Bhandari said he wasn't aware of the matter so won't comment, while V-C Grover remained incommunicado on his trip to China. Both Gupta and Vashisht remained unavailable for comment too.
Meanwhile, the police said they had lodge the FIR under sections 354 (assault or criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty) and section 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). DSP (central) Ashish Kapoor said, "After getting the complaint we got the issue legally examined, and the recommendations suggested registering a case."
The complainant said the "first step towards justice" had been taken and she was grateful to the UT police. "I was waiting for justice from the V-C office but till date they haven't been able to settle my complaint. Had they taken action, I would have never approached the police."
She alleged that Gupta had earlier been involved in a similar case in 2011, and the varsity had failed to settle that case too, "so what justice could I have expected?" "University authorities seem to have succumbed to the pressure of senators," she said.
WHAT'S THE MATTER?
* On Apr 11, asst prof and UBS chair get into argument; one version says it was verbal and over her coming late for admission process; she alleges assault, foul language.
* Chairperson approaches V-C; asst prof off admission board. Apr 15, she is asked to be put back, but not done after chairperson puts foot down
* As V-C orders probe (still incomplete), she complains of sexual harassment, also files police complaint on May 1
Apart from suspension of both professors AK Vashisht and Dinesh Gupta, the former will in all probability be also asked to step down as UBS chairperson. The decision is expected on Wednesday.