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CU probe holds tutor guilty of harassment

A probe by a Calcutta University panel has held a professor of the marine science department guilty of sexually harassing a student.

The report of the six-member committee that probes complaints of sexual harassment from students or employees is likely to be tabled at the October 6 meeting of the university syndicate.

The committee had initially refused to probe the complaint on the grounds that the alleged place of occurrence was outside the campus, but had to take up the case following a nudge by governor M.K. Narayanan, who is also chancellor of the university.

University registrar Basab Chowdhury refused to speak about the outcome of the probe. “We are in the dark about the findings. Let the committee table its report, we will comment after that,” said Chowdhury.

A member of the probe panel, however, told Metro that the teacher had been found guilty following detailed questioning of the victim and the accused.

“The panel had last month asked the student and the professor to depose before it. The teacher’s guilt was established following detailed depositions. The syndicate now will decide what action could be taken against the teacher,” said the member.

The final-year student of marine science had lodged a complaint with the university authorities in July, alleging that the teacher had been sexually harassing her over two years. According to the complaint, a copy of which was forwarded to the governor, the teacher harassed her after calling her home on the pretext of helping her with studies.

The authorities referred the case to the committee, which refused to look into the complaint on the grounds that a Supreme Court ruling had specified that panels set up to probe charges of sexual harassment at workplaces could not look into cases related to incidents outside workplaces.

The student came to know about the committee’s decision and appealed to the governor for justice.

“When the governor enquired with the university authorities about the case, we sent him a copy of what the panel wrote in support of its decision,” said a university official.

“The governor then consulted legal experts, who told him that the Supreme Court directive had imposed no such curbs on committees set up to probe complaints of sexual harassment at workplaces,” an official said.

“The experts were of the opinion that since the complainant and the accused were attached to the university, the authorities should consider the alleged incident as having occurred at the workplace. Thereafter, the governor wrote to vice-chancellor Suranjan Das in the third week of August, urging the authorities to probe the complaint,” the official said. The syndicate met on August 31 and decided that the probe panel would look into the complaint.

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