After the allegation of sexual harassment put on JNU professor Atul Johri, the Delhi High Court has now ordered that Johri should not join the university’s women’s hostel as an in-charge.  Not just this, the HC has also directed him not to interact with the students.

The court went on to ask the university on the lack of women members in the committee set up to investigate on the matter of sexual harassment accusations against Johri. It reached the decision on Johri after the varsity’s counsel told the bench that the professor has resigned from administrative work and has left his duty as a warden of any hostel or member of any committee.

The HC observed that JNU should think on the recommendation of putting Johri on leave after the fact-finding committee submits its findings in the issue.

“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, TNIE reported.

“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 and asked the professor not to visit laboratory no. 409 of the Department of Life Sciences where the students work.

Earlier in this year, over seven women students studying in the School of Life Sciences filed a complaint of sexual harassment against Johri. The students went up to the varsity’s former committee against sexual harassment—Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH)—to help them file police complaints. Media has reported an email from a victim which tells about how Johri conducted himself while at work in the laboratory with women students.

The petition with the Delhi HC seeks dismissal of Johri from the university and the provision of a safe working environment to the students. The court minded the fact that the fact-finding committee set up by the university to deal with the case has two male professors. It asked JNU counsel Ginni Routray to ask the varsity’s VC to reconstitute the panel by adding a few women professors to whom the women survivors may feel more comfortable talking.

“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.

Advocate Vrinda Grover who is appearing for the women students disclosed that 79 more students have come forward to say that they feel afraid and unsafe in the college atmosphere as the professor continued to visit the Department of Life Sciences.

She also spoke up about the hostile behaviour that the survivors had to deal with while filing the complaint from the law-enforcing agencies and the university administration alike.

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“What JNU intends to do from now onwards? Did the VC manage to see the statements of women students recorded before a magistrate under section 164 CrPC,” the court asked.

“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.”

Routray answered that the fact-finding committee expects to conclude its investigation in three months. She further reassured the court that the professor has resigned from all official positions and administration has advised him not to go to the lab or department. Also, the university administration has changed the supervisors of some women students pursuing PhD, and it has made alternative arrangements for those for whom they have not yet found suitable supervisors.

The professor’s advocate informed the court that Johri does not wish to touch the students’ work now, saying if the evaluation turned against them then they will again level some charges against him.

The court also asked the counsel if the professor can move out of the campus and consider living somewhere else but the counsel replied in negative and said he cannot move out as his “prestige was at stake” and he has “three daughters”.

Delhi Police’s advocate Satyakam told the court that the probe is underway but they have filed a status report. And that they will file the next report before the upcoming hearing on May 23.

More Stories by Poorvi Gupta

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