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Law school in the ‘dock’

A young woman waiting two months for the National University of Juridical Sciences to act on her complaint about sexual harassment at the workplace has lodged an FIR, blaming lack of initiative by the authorities for threats to her safety.

The woman’s FIR with Bidhannagar South police station on July 26 states that she was subjected to sexual harassment, physical assault and criminal intimidation through threats of an acid attack.

The victim had submitted a written complaint to the vice-chancellor of the university on June 12, but decided to go to the police after the first hearing of the internal inquiry was postponed to August 20.

The accused had been asked to go on leave without pay after the university received the complaint, but sources said the victim feared he would return soon since the authorities were yet to start proceedings against him.

“We received a written complaint about sexual harassment and stalking from an employee in June and it was forwarded to the institution’s internal complaints committee for investigation. The victim later sought permission from us to file a police complaint, saying she was not satisfied with the progress of the internal investigation. We gave her permission to do so,” the university’s registrar, Surojit Mukhopadhyay, told Metro.

The delay in conducting the first internal hearing has raised questions in the light of the Supreme Court’s guidelines for tackling harassment of women at the workplace.

Based on the apex court’s guidelines, the central government drew up the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013 that took effect in April.

The act makes it compulsory for every institution to have an internal complaints committee to probe allegations of harassment.

The university of juridical sciences has a complaints committee in place but its failure to hold a hearing in the harassment case in two months is seen as a delay tactic.

The law states that the committee must complete the inquiry within 90 days.

Vice-chancellor P. Ishwara Bhat insisted the probe was progressing as it should. “We will complete the inquiry within 90 days. The accused wanted medical leave, which we have denied, and he is now on leave without pay,” he said.