Uproar over ICC clean chit to JNU professor accused of sexual harassment

Written by Sabrangindia | Published on: January 11, 2019

The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) further stated that the accused professor Atul Johri posed “no threat” to the complainants and instead was facing threats from the students who complained and their families.


Johri
 
SUB: The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) further stated that the accused professor Atul Johri posed “no threat” to the complainants and instead was facing threats from the students who complained and their families.
 
New Delhi: JNU professor Atul Johri, against whom at least eight women filed FIRs accusing him of sexual harassment under Sections 354 and 509 of the IPC, was given a clean chit in July 2018. The news broke on January 9 and the university’s Internal Complaints Committee (IIC) has recommended that if need be, his family should be provided security.
 
Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) gave a clean chit to the professor who was accused of sexual harassment by eight women students on campus in March last year, reported The Indian Express.
 
The committee further stated that the accused professor Atul Johri posed “no threat” to the complainants and instead was facing threats from the students who complained and their families.
 
The report, signed by six members of ICC, including committee’s presiding officer Vibha Tandon has noted that the students who accused Johri had “good friendly relation with defendant and his wife and were celebrating birthdays and festivals together. This fact further strengthened the averment of the defendant that allegations of sexual harassment are raised with an ulterior motive”.
 
“However, since the complainants have refused to appear before the committee, therefore certain ingredients could not be ascertained,” The Indian Express reported, quoting the ICC’s statement dated 23 July 2018.
 
Rejecting the need to suspend Johri, ICC has noted, “the defendant is not a threat to the complainants or any other member of the JNU community”, that he is “not a threat to any witness and is not in a position to influence the witnesses or temper (sic) the evidence”.
 
The ICC said that “all the apprehensions of the complainants in this regard are totally baseless and unfounded”.
 
The committee was directed by the Delhi High Court to investigate the matter on 29 May last year. The matter is slated for next hearing on 25 January.
 
The Jawaharlal Nehru University Students’ Union (JNUSU) condemned the clean chit on Wednesday. Stating that they will protest outside the ICC office Thursday, JNUSU president N Sai Balaji said, “Our criticism of the ICC is consistently being proved right… From day one, the V-C has been trying to protect Johri. It was only after continuous protests and pressure from the Delhi High Court that the V-C was forced to form a committee through the ICC, where they tried to use every mechanism to try and divert the enquiry process. (This report) sets a dangerous precedent for the whole gender justice movement. We stand with the complainants.”
 
On Wednesday, the complainants’ advocate Vrinda Grover said that the ICC order will be challenged before the Delhi High Court.
 
“The ICC is working for the protection of Prof. Johri and not concerned about the safety of the students,” advocate Grover said, adding, “We are going to challenge the ICC’s report before the Delhi High Court.”
 
Grover said that the students had not filed a complaint of sexual harassment against Prof. Johri before the ICC as they did not have any confidence in the committee.
 
Professor or a Serial Harasser?
The series of harassment came to light when a 26-year-old research scholar “went missing” from the campus and a missing report was filed by the father. The report was later withdrawn as she informed her parents about her whereabouts. Purportedly, in an email that she sent him, she called him “characterless” and that he did not have “manners to talk to girls.”
 
Once this became public, several students from the School of Life Sciences (SLS), who had been working in Prof Johri’s lab, came forward to share stories of how he is a serial offender. Allegedly, the professor often “made sexually coloured remarks, openly demanded sex and commented on the bodies of almost of every woman. If a woman objected, he held a grudge against her and threatened to ruin her research career.”
 
The JNU administration, though, did not show any interest in suspending the professor immediately. Moreover, students also reported that they were beaten up while they were protesting outside a police station in the night.
 
This incident has brought back the debates of the replacement of the GSCASH (Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment) by ICC (Internal Complaints Committee.)
 
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