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Thursday, Nov 21, 2019

Sexual harassment case against former V-C: PU probe panel as per law, says HC

cities Updated: Oct 17, 2019 01:09 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent

Chandigarh The Punjab and Haryana high court has upheld the constitution of an Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) by the Panjab University to look into the allegations of sexual harassment against former vice-chancellor Arun Kumar Grover.

The allegations against Grover were levelled by a woman professor of the university who had approached the high court in September 2018 arguing that recommendations made by the senate of constituting a committee was approved by chancellor — Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu — to probe the complaint even as the senate had no role to play. Grover was the V-C at the time when senate recommended action. She had also raised objections to some names in the committee and demanded that the probe panel be constituted as per the provisions of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Acting on her plea, high court had put proceedings of the committee in abeyance. Grover completed his second tenure as the V-C on July 21, 2018. The allegations of sexual harassment had initially cropped up during his first tenure as V-C in 2015.

“To my mind, every allegation/apprehension of bias, even if unfounded, against the committee or any of its members, would not justify the re-constitution of the committee or grant of stay on its proceedings,” the bench of justice Arun Monga said. “Taking a contrary view would rather provide an unfair handle to and place a complainant in a commanding position, to act on her whim and fancy, to dictate and impose her own terms and wishes until constitution of a committee of her own chosen members. That would erode, if not take away, the statutory authority of the employer to constitute the committee,” the bench added, while disposing of the plea. It further observed that no reasonable or valid ground of bias could be made out by the woman professor against the committee.

Initial complaint was filed by the woman professor in April 2015 to then chancellor, in which Grover was accused of sexual harassment. In the complaint she had demanded a CBI probe and collection of inputs through the intelligence bureau. Initially, the matter was referred to Punjab University Committee Against Sexual Harassment (PUCASH). However, it referred back the matter, arguing that PUCASH is constituted by senate and since senate is not the employer of the V-C, the matter can’t be probed by it.

After multiple rounds of communication between the ministry of human resource development and chancellor’s office, syndicate and senate proposed a committee presided over by Navraj Sandhu, additional chief secretary,Haryana. It was approved by the chancellor in March 2018 and the same was conveyed to the professor, who went to the high court challenging the constitution of the committee.

The court said that the chancellor was the competent authority to appoint the panel, being employer of Grover. It also said that the law does not bar an employer from obtaining inputs from any source such as senate for constitution of the panel.

The court, however, gave liberty to the woman professor to raise all her contentions and objections before the committee, which has been directed to look into the same before submitting its final report. The court, however, didn’t set a deadline for the committee for the same.