New Delhi, Sept. 13: JNU registrar Pramod Kumar has issued a circular saying elections to the varsity's Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) - a watchdog that has been the model for several institutions and courts - be put "on hold".
The circular, sent to student, teachers and employee unions yesterday, says the JNU executive council (EC) will take up on Monday the implementation of 2015 UGC rules against sexual harassment.
GSCASH is being renamed the Internal Complaints Committee in line with the regulations and any election should be "kept on hold till further notice", the circular says. Pramod Kumar did not respond to calls. Messages to him and vice-chancellor M. Jagadesh Kumar went unanswered.
"The registrar has no locus standi vis-à-vis GSCASH elections... his letter (circular) countermanding elections is a shameful case of institutional overreach. The UGC regulation does not state that the ICC must necessarily supersede GSCASH," the JNU Teachers' Association (JNUTA) said in a statement.
In 2015, the EC had accepted revised rules of GSCASH to bring it in consonance with the Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act. Most important, GSCASH is gender-neutral and has even punished women found guilty of sexually harassing men, unlike the UGC norms directed specifically against harassment of women only.
The GSCASH, notified in 1999 after an agitation by students and teachers following the confinement and rape of a mentally challenged girl by a non-teaching staff member, has evolved to incorporate a range of protocols. These include protecting the identity of the plaintiff and not bring him or her face to face with the defendant - provisions the UGC norms do not have.
The main bone of contention is that the UGC norms do not specify elections for representatives of teachers and other staff on the ICC, giving the vice-chancellor the power to nominate them. On the 23-member GSCASH, only elected members take part in inquiries. The JNU students union is planning an agitation. Students and teachers may also move court.
"If the head of the institution has powers over the watchdog, then you have what happened in former Teri director-general R.K. Pachauri's case where the ICC was reconstituted with his nominees to probe allegations against him," JNUTA president Ayesha Kidwai said.