JNU professor Atul Johri arrested on ‘sexual harassment’ charges, later bailed out
Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) professor Atul Johri was arrested on Tuesday on charges of sexual harassment levelled against him by eight female students. A Delhi court later granted him bail after an hour-long hearing and asked him to furnish Rs 30,000 as bail bond in each case.
A day after hundreds of JNU students marched to Vasant Kunj police station and scuffled with the cops, demanding action against Johri, the police interrogated the professor for an hour and arrested him around 5 pm. He was questioned for almost an hour at RK Puram police station in south Delhi in eight cases registered between Friday and Monday, said police.
Around 6 pm, Johri was produced before a metropolitan magistrate in the Patiala House court amid tight security arrangements. Johri’s counsel argued that the allegations of sexual harassment made by the complainant pertain to 2013-14 while the FIR has been registered in 2018, after a delay of almost four years.
“We arrested him after he appeared before the investigating team. He was produced before the concerned court that granted him bail. We had opposed the bail application mentioning the apprehension of the complainants regarding intimidation from the accused, being in position of authority at JNU,” said Dependra Pathak, special commissioner and chief spokesperson of Delhi Police.
Johri’s lawyers told the court that he had sent an email to certain students on February 27 this year, warning them against their irregular attendance. The email also stated that as per the University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines, they will not be able to complete their PhDs if they failed attendance rules. The counsel argued that the students filed “false FIRs” against Johri to stop him from taking action against them.
Seven JNU students had filed complaints on Thursday and accused Johri of allegedly sexually harassing them. Only one FIR was registered at the Vasant Kunj North police station on Friday, even as two more complaints were received the same day.
Geeta Kumari, the president of JNU students union, said it was “disheartening and saddening” that the professor was given bail.“We are thinking about the way forward. We can’t pressure the courts... But we don’t understand why eight FIRs were not enough to keep a sexual predator in jail,” she said.
Students and activists have been protesting demanding FIRs on the other eight complaints and the arrest of Johri. On Monday evening, police turned seven more complaints into FIRs while one complainant decided to become a witness against Johri.
“The ninth complainant has not withdrawn her complaint but has agreed to become a witness. If required, we will turn her complaint into an FIR as well,” Milind Dumbere, deputy commissioner of police (southwest), said. He also said, “We did not seek Johri’s police remand as no recovery has to been made in the cases.”
On Tuesday morning, students of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, for whom the professor had allegedly campaigned, also staged a protest on campus. Later in the afternoon, a group of around 50-odd activists from women’s organisations such as the All India Democratic Women’s Association, All India Progressive Women’s Association, All India Mahila Sanskritik Sanghatan and others, had demonstrated outside the Vasant Kunj Police station.
They submitted a memorandum at the station, asking that the teacher be arrested immediately, and the university be directed that interference will not be tolerated.