Clear penalties defined in new PU policy on sexual harassment
The internal complaints committee (formerly Panjab University Committee Against Sexual Harassment) has already started working as per the draft policy, which is expected to be cleared by the senate – the varsity’s apex governing body – in toto
The Panjab University draft policy against sexual harassment, which has received nod by the varsity syndicate, has laid out well-defined penalties for students and staff, something which was missing earlier.
These range from a warning or reprimand and go up to dismissal from service.
The internal complaints committee (formerly Panjab University Committee Against Sexual Harassment) has already started working as per the draft policy, which is expected to be cleared by the senate – the varsity’s apex governing body – in toto.
The PU syndicate on July 8 had resolved that the University Grants Commission (UGC) directions on prevention, prohibition and redress of sexual harassment of women employees and students in higher education institutions be adopted in totality, after which the draft policy was framed.
Who’ll be punished how
For both teaching and non-teaching staff, penalties start from a reprimand and can also include withholding increments, compulsory retirement and dismissal from service. Teaching staff can also be debarred from holding any administrative position in the university.
For PU students, penalties include warnings, change of hostel, withdrawal of hostel accommodation, permanent restraining orders, rustication from the university and withholding of degree. Hostel facility can be withheld from one semester to the entire period of study depending upon the gravity of the case.
Action against outsiders is different. A letter communicating their misconduct can be sent to the place of education/employment or residence. The PU campus can also be declared out of bounds for them and a ban on appearing in any entrance exam or interview for any course offered in PU can also be imposed.
In case of service providers, the right to manage or work in any commercial enterprise on the campus can be withdrawn. If the offence is repeated, the policy calls for stricter action than in the case of first offence. However, the strictness will be as per the gravity of the offence.
Committee’s responsibilities defined
The responsibilities of the ICC have also been clearly defined in the draft policy. Speaking about this, a member highlighted, “Action has also been defined for members who miss meetings of the committee. If a member remains absent without prior written intimation for three consecutive meetings or for two months, whichever is greater, their office will become vacant. Earlier, no such action was defined for PUCASH.”
The committee receives around two complaints of sexual harassment every month and recently, students have been seen to be more comfortable in approaching ICC than staff.
Currently, there are no pending complaints with the body that is tasked with resolving them within 90 days.
Eye on malicious complaints too
In case a false and malicious complaint is filed, the body, through the vice-chancellor, can recommend action against the complainant in accordance with the provisions of the service rules applicable. However, mere inability to substantiate a complaint will not attract action.
Since its conception in 2014, PUCASH has recommended dismissal of two faculty members.
Among them, Devinder Preet Singh, an assistant professor at HS Judge Institute of Dental Sciences and Hospital, was dismissed in 2018 after a complaint was received against him. The same year, Komal Singh, assistant professor at the public administration department, was also dismissed.