JNU allows sexual harassment accused professor Atul Johri to return, students say will boycott classes
The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) administration has decided to allow professor Atul Johri, who is facing sexual harassment charges, to access his room and laboratory and delegate his teaching responsibilities to him.
The decision was taken at the 278th meeting of the university’s Executive Council held on February 15.
In March last year, at least eight women accused Johri, a professor at JNU’s School of Life Sciences (SLS), of sexual harassment, leading to his arrest and subsequent bail.
Though the microbiology professor stepped down from his administrative posts, he was present on the campus.
“Once Johri comes and tries to enter the building, we will not stop him. But if he is inside the building, the students won’t be there. This is what the students decided in the general body meeting. Now the administration has to take a call if they want to be with the students or Johri,” said Preeti Umarao, a PhD scholar at SLS and a member of the student faculty committee.
“Students should not boycott the classes when Prof Johri has already been cleared by the ICC and the petition has been disposed of by the high court,” JNU registrar Pramod Kumar said, adding the decision was taken after consultation with legal advisors. Despite repeated attempts, Johri could not be reached for a comment.
“The high court order stopping Johri from accessing his lab and academic spaces has not been not vacated by the bench. The order is still in place,” JNUSU president N Sai Balaji said, adding they will legally challenge the university’s decision.
“Bringing Johri back is not only against law and principles of gender justice and but also will create an atmosphere intimidation and fear for complaints,” the JNU Students’ Union said in a statement.
In May 2018, the Delhi High Court ordered the university to investigate if the allegations against Johri warranted his immediate suspension. The ICC submitted a report to the high court in August, giving a clean chit to Johri, adding the complainants had threatened Johri and his family.
Last month, eight students filed a counter petition challenging the ICC report and the high court sought the university administration’s response on it. The court disposed of the earlier plea filed by the students seeking the suspension and removal of Johri. The matter will be heard next on May 3.