We, the undersigned faculty and student members of Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) who have been elected by the faculty and students of JNU to ensure gender justice in the university (2017), are shocked by the news report on the recommendations of the Internal Complaints Committee’s (ICC) for a specific case. The report published in Indian Express (13.12.2018) states that the ICC found the complaint a frivolous one after inquiry and consequently has recommended that the complainant be completely debarred from entering JNU Campus, her degree should be withdrawn, and that she should never be allowed to take up any course or employment in JNU.
As per the ICC Rules and Procedure, Rule No. 11 states the “Action against frivolous complaint” in order “to ensure that the provisions for the protection of employees and students from sexual harassment do not get misused”. It further states “If the ICC concludes that the allegations made were false, malicious or the complaint was made knowing it to be untrue, or forged or misleading information has been provided during the inquiry, the complainant shall be liable to be punished as per the provisions of sub- regulations (1) of regulations 10, if the complainant happens to be an employee and as per sub-regulation (2) of that regulation, if the complainant happens to be a student. However, the mere inability to substantiate a complaint or provide adequate proof will not attract attention against the complainant. Malicious intent on the part of the complainant shall not be established without an inquiry, in accordance with the procedure prescribed, conducted before any action is recommended”.
Rule No. 10 states that in case of a frivolous complaint lodged by a student, the HEI may
- “(a) withhold privileges of the student such as access to the library, auditoria, halls of residence, transportation, scholarships, allowances, and identity card;
- (b) suspend or restrict entry into the campus for a specific period;
- (c) expel and strike off name from the rolls of the institution, including denial of readmission, if the offence so warrants; and
- (d) award reformative punishments like mandatory counselling and, or, performance of community services”.
While we are not privy to any details of this particular inquiry process (even though the reports we have received of other ICC proceedings provide us grounds for reservations), the severity of punitive action against a complaint that has been deemed to be frivolous are both harsh, and disproportionate. The news report states that the ICC has recommended that the complainant should inform and take prior permission to enter the campus for the purpose of the Inquiry and that she should be escorted by two female security guards. It further reveals that the complainant has been punished under each provision of the Rule. With due respect to the full inquiry process conducted by ICC, it seems that the Inquiry Committee took an extraordinarily strict stand against the complainant.
We would like to point out to the JNU community that the ICC has recommended an exemplary punishment to a complainant, while no perpetrator has been punished to that extent in any of its inquiries. We know that such punitive measures will have an adverse impact on the very process of gender sensitization among the university community. Since under the ICC Rules and Procedures only women can be the ‘aggrieved parties’ who can lodge complaints, such punishments will deter women students from making complaints of sexual harassment. Proceedings on complaints that end up in punishing the complainants may also result in withdrawal of complaints, which will be tantamount to forced withdrawal, and intimidate women from participating in the inquiry process with full agency. Such an environment is fast becoming established in JNU, and if entrenched, shall endanger the health and safety of every woman member of the JNU community, as the only recourse to them will be to suffer sexual harassment and violence without complaint or protest. Far from creating a climate where talk of gender equality is possible, this atmosphere will undermine the tireless participation of JNU community over the last two decades in ensuring proper procedures for gender sensitization and gender justice.
Shukla Sawant (GSCASH Chairperson)
Urmimala Sarkar Munsi (Former GSCASH Chairperson)
Moushumi Basu (Faculty Member)
Kali Chittibabu (Faculty Member)
Mallarika Sinha Roy (Faculty Member)
Srabani (Student Representative to GSCASH)
Shreya (Student Representative to GSCASH)
Bhupali (Student Representative to GSCASH)
Swati (Student Representative to GSCASH)
Chetna (Student Representative to GSCASH)
Karabee (JNUSU Representative to GSCASH)