An employee of the National University of Juridical Sciences who has complained of sexual harassment at workplace has accused an in-house panel probing her allegation of being “biased”.
The law school on Friday received a written complaint from the employee against the panel that held its first meeting on August 20, 70 days after she lodged her complaint accusing a superior of harassing her for over a year.
“We have received a letter from her on Friday evening regarding the proceedings of the internal complaints committee probing her allegations. But we are yet to apply our minds to it,” university registrar Surajit Mukhopadhyay said.
At the first hearing, which the woman said in her complaint had left her “upset” and “doubtful” about getting justice, the committee members allegedly asked her repeatedly why she had lodged a police complaint despite filing a complaint with the university.
The woman had apparently said she was forced to lodge the FIR on July 26 as the internal complaints committee had been sitting on the complaint she had lodged with the university 43 days before.
She stated in the FIR that the accused had subjected her to sexual harassment, physical assault and criminal intimidation through threats of acid attack.
A probe by another panel of the institute had revealed that the accused had been sending the woman “lewd emails” for over a year.
University sources said the police complaint had forced the probe panel to hold a hearing. However, the committee allegedly told the woman on August 20 that the two parallel investigations — one by the police and the other by the internal panel — would further delay the institution’s probe.
She was apparently told that the accused was unable to come out of hiding and depose before the in-house committee because of the FIR. According to the police, the accused has been absconding since a Barasat court rejected his plea for anticipatory bail.
She was asked several times whether she would want the two probes to proceed simultaneously, a source said.
According to one source, the committee had repeatedly asked the woman to explain why reports highlighting her plight had appeared in newspapers. “She tried to convince the members that she had not made any statement to the media. But the panel drew a one-sided conclusion accusing her of not trusting the authorities,” the source said.
Several teachers and employees at the law school see in the committee’s stand a “pressure tactic” aimed at forcing the woman to withdraw the FIR and “settle the matter across the table”.
“If a probe panel takes this attitude, sexual harassment of women at workplace cannot be rooted out,” said a woman employee of the law school.
Based on the Supreme Court’s guidelines, the central government drew up the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act that came into effect in April 2013. The act makes it mandatory for every institution to have an internal complaints committee to probe allegations of harassment.