Ex-Panjab University V-C demands action against prof over sexual harassment allegations

The Student Centre at Panjab University in Chandigarh | Photo: Commons

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Chandigarh: Former Panjab University (PU) vice-chancellor Arun Grover has written to current V-C Prof. Raj Kumar and members of the university senate, demanding an inquiry against a woman professor of the university for levelling “false allegations” of sexual harassment against him.

The professor, in turn, served a legal notice to Grover Thursday for going public.

The escalation follows the report of the independent internal committee constituted to look into the allegations, which concluded that the complainant had not defended her allegations despite multiple opportunities given to her.

The committee was constituted by the PU in December 2017, following approval from the Ministry of Human Resource Development (now Ministry of Education) to look into the complaints of the professor. The committee last month submitted its report to Vice-President of India, Venkaiah Naidu, who is the Panjab University chancellor.

The committee, in its concluding meeting held on 16 July, noted that in the past two years, six opportunities were given to the professor to appear before the committee but she did not present her case even once. The committee recommended that the inquiry proceedings be closed, but noted that the professor had sent written representations to it questioning its constitution.

“It appears that the complainant did not want to stand to her complaints/allegations, as despite due notices and receipts by her, she has failed to appear before the committee, and as the procedure requires, there is no jurisdiction to further proceed with the present inquiry into the complaints made by the woman professor in the Panjab University,” the committee stated.

Also read: Request her to ‘tie rakhi’ — HC’s bail condition for man accused of sexual harassment

Grover’s demand

Grover received the recommendations of the independent inquiry committee from the Vice-President’s office last week, and wrote to current PU V-C Prof. Raj Kumar and members of the university senate, demanding an inquiry, following which the professor served him a legal notice for making the committee’s report public.

Grover wrote to the V-C again Friday, asking him to convene a meeting of the senate by 31 October to discuss the findings of the committee.

“Since April 2015, I have been subjected to constant mental harassment because of these false allegations and multiple complaints. But I fought it out relentlessly in every forum because I knew there was no truth to the allegations,” former V-C Grover told ThePrint in a phone call.

“Now when the inquiry committee has given its report, I am well within my rights to demand an inquiry against the complainant for indulging in sustained harassment and defamation,” he said, adding that he will resort to other legal channels available to him.

When contacted by ThePrint through a phone call, the professor refused to comment on the findings of the committee, pointing out that discussing her case publicly was a violation of various sections of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

Details of the inquiry

Grover was appointed the V-C of Panjab University in July 2012, and retired in July 2018. In April 2015, the professor had alleged that Grover had behaved badly with her and also subjected her to sexual harassment on various occasions.

Since multiple complaints filed by her were pending with the university, the police, the education ministry and the National Commission for Women, PU decided to constitute an independent committee, which the ministry approved.

The committee was first chaired by senior Haryana IAS officer Navraj Sandhu until her retirement in November 2019, and then by Dheera Khandelwal, additional chief secretary of Haryana.

The professor was called before the committee on six occasions (three times each in 2018 and 2020) but she did not appear. Instead, she wrote to the committee, questioning its constitution and stated there was no employee-employer relationship between the office of the chancellor (Vice-President Naidu) and Grover, whose term as V-C had ended in 2018.

In its report, the committee noted that the question of its constitution had already been considered by the Punjab and Haryana High Court when the professor had, in September 2018, moved the court raising objections to the inclusion of some members in the committee. The HC, in October 2019, upheld the university’s decision to constitute the independent committee to look into her allegations.

Also read: Central university V-C under Modi govt scanner for ‘fudging documents, sexual harassment’


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