GSCASH calls ICC recommendations against JNU complainant of sexual harassment “Extraordinarily strict”

Written by Sushmita | Published on: December 15, 2018
The fears students had expressed about having a body like an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in JNU seem to have come true. In an extraordinarily harsh move, the ICC has recommended punitive action against a complainant of sexual harassment. Now the Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) called the recommended punitive actions as “extraordinarily harsh” and expressed fears that such action may threaten the work around gender justice on the campus.

GSCASH

The complainant, who is a PhD student filed a complaint on April 12 against a professor at JNU who was her guide to the ICC. He was accused of molestation, sexual harassment and repeated threats.

However, as per the Indian Express, on November 5, her accusations were deemed false and she has been barred from attending college.

Vibha Tandon, the Presiding Officer of the ICC said, “The complainant should be completely barred from entering the JNU campus. She shall not be allowed to take up any course or employment in JNU in the future. She should not be allowed to enter in the JNU campus to attend any academic or non-academic proceedings. She should not be allowed to enter in the JNU campus for her personal reasons what so ever.”

These are not just harsh, but extraordinary measures which seem like a way to punish complainant/s for filing a complaint. The ICC rules, though have a provision to take action against any complainant who tries to ‘misuse’ the rules, the provision says that action should be taken only after an official inquiry. Moreover, merely the “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. 11)

Now, the GSCASH which has been defunct since 2017, has issued a statement questioning the proportionality and grounds of the punitive action initiated against the complaints, calling its stand “extraordinarily strict”.

The statement says, “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.”

Adding that no perpetrator has been punished so far in any of its inquiries, it says, “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 measures will have an adverse impact on the very process of gender sensitization among the university community.”

The statement highlights the fact that such an environment is fast becoming established in JNU and if it becomes entrenched, it can endanger the health and safety of every woman member of the JNU community. The statement has raised concerns about an atmosphere of fear being created which will “undermine the tireless participation of JNU community over the last two decades in ensuring proper procedures for gender sensitization and gender justice.”

These fears have been in the offing since ICC replaced the GSCASH in 2017.

GSCASH vs. ICC debate
GSCASH, a body constituted by JNU in 1999 by the recommendations of the Working Groupd on Sexual Harassment in 1997. The Rules and Procedures were approved by JNU Executiev Council in 2001. The Committee implemented the Jawaharlal Nehru University Policy Against Sexual Harassment (1999) as also the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court of India, in its ruling on the Writ Petition (Criminal) Vishaka vs. State of Rajasthan (1997) on the prevention and deterrence of sexual harassment at the workplace.

Afterwards, it also implemented modifications as per the newer developments such as SAKSHAM guideline by UGC in 2013. Its rules applied to all students and teaching and non-teaching staff. By its nature the GSCASH was more democratic as it had elected representatives.

However, the GSCASH was replaced by the ICC in its 269th Executive Council meeting held on September 18 2017 and ICC, which was supposed to have members nominated by the administration, was formed.

Students had expressed fears about the ICC not being a body selected by students and faculty and hence its decisions could turn undemocratic and may not entirely serve the purpose of gender justice. With the ICC decisions against the complainant in question, those fears seem to have come true.

Also Read
‘Serial Harasser’ professor being safeguarded by JNU Admin?