As per a tweet of June 22 going viral, a law school in Bangalore has punished students, both women, for naming an accused in an alleged sexual harassment case. About 200 alumni of the law school have released a statement condemning the act.
The open letter signed by the alumni mentioned, “The narration of the incident of sexual harassment took place over email, as well as on a private Facebook group with students from the University pursuant to a request made by the survivor in question. The facilitators shared details regarding this instance of sexual harassment upon being requested to do so by the survivor in question. As this survivor was not a student at [the law school], she was unable to share details regarding the instance of sexual harassment on these platforms, herself.”
The two students who revealed the information about the alleged perpetrator were appointed as facilitators under the institution’s Code to Combat Sexual Harassment (SHARIC). The letter claimed that there was no breach of confidentiality by the female students as there were no ongoing proceedings being conducted by the the SHARIC.
The letter added that the law school found the students guilty of “major misconduct” under its disciplinary rules. As a penalty, the students were asked to apologise or face a monetary fine. As per the letter, the two students, “decided not to apologize as that may have had the effect of stifling the voices of any peers who wished to share their own stories of sexual harassment or violence at the hands of other students.” Instead they paid the monetary fine imposed on them. The institution went ahead and removed the students from all positions of responsibility including their role as facilitators of SHARIC. The letter further added, ” We unequivocally condemn NLSIU’s finding that the student facilitators are guilty of “major misconduct”. It has also come to our attention that the student facilitators have been barred from sharing the order of the DARIC committee, so we are unable to even peruse the logic and reasoning of the committee. This means that the proceedings are shrouded in secrecy, and the principles of natural justice are not being followed, which is deeply unfair.”
Alumni also commended the “courageous and principled stance” taken by the two students. The letter added that the law school as seen many incidents of sexual harassment and sexual violence in the past and most of the students at receiving end of such cases were women. The letter added that the survivors find it difficult to speak about their experiences or take legal of formal action against their perpetrators. A decision as such as the current one will undoubtedly have a chilling effect on the voices of other survivors, present and future, and signal to them that the college wants them to remain silent in the face of sexual and gender-based violence, the letter added. Read the letter here.
Several twitter users shared the tweet with the letter and called out the law school for its actions against the two students. The user who shared the letter first wrote, “This is a free speech issue as much as it is about sexual violence.”