The Delhi High Court on Wednesday directed a JNU professor, accused of sexually harassing women students, not to interact with women students or take charge as warden of any girls’ hostel in the university campus.
"These directions are made on the stand taken by JNU's counsel to provide a safe working environment to the petitioner students," the court said.
The court asked the professor not to visit laboratory no. 409 of the Department of Life Sciences where the students work.
"In my view, it is also in the interest of the professor to reduce the chance of interaction with the complainants or potential witnesses," Justice Rajiv Shakdher said.
The Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) counsel had informed the court that Prof Atul Kumar Johri had resigned from administrative work and was no more the warden of any hostel or member of any committee. In view of it, the court issued the direction today.
The court also noted that the fact-finding committee set up to probe the professor’s alleged misconduct comprised of two male professors and questioned the varsity over the absence of women members in the committee.
"They have put two male professors in the fact-finding committee. Why not any female professor? How will the students answer to a male member properly? A woman member can ask questions in a better manner as the allegations pertain to sexual harassment," it said.
The court asked JNU advocate Ginni Rautray to advise the vice chancellor to reconstitute the panel by including a female professor before whom the women students could depose comfortably.
The court was hearing a petition filed by several women students seeking suspension of the professor, against whom eight FIRs have been lodged alleging sexual harassment, and to restrain him from entering the campus. The plea has sought the provision of a safe working environment to the students.
Advocate Vrinda Grover, appearing for women students, said 79 more students have written to the police that they were living in a fearful atmosphere as the professor continued to visit the Department of Life Sciences.
Reading out the details given by the students in the FIRs in the court, Grover said the systematic nature and pattern of sexual harassment was visible through the complaints of the students. When the matter was reported by any of the students to the university authorities, they were not given due attention and cognisance was not taken of these complaints.
The counsel for the professor claimed that the FIRs against him were motivated and all the complaints were "stereotyped". The complaints started after he sent an email to some students warning them against their irregular and poor attendance pattern, he alleged.
Advocate Satyakam, appearing for the Delhi Police, told the court that the investigation was going on and they have filed a status report. A fresh one would be submitted before the next date of hearing on May 23.
The court had on April 25, directed the JNU to treat the representations of women students as complaints and initiate a probe against the professor on charges of sexual harassment, while questioning the varsity for not taking any steps in the matter.
Students, professors and women rights organisations have been demanding his arrest, after several students had accused him of sexual harassment.
In his bail plea, Johri stated before the trial court that in compliance with UGC guidelines regarding compulsory attendance and leave pattern, he had sent an e-mail on February 27 to certain students, including a complainant student, warning them against their irregular attendance pattern. He said the allegations levelled by the woman pertained to 2013-14, but the FIR was registered in 2018.
(With PTI inputs)