Sexual abuse charge against former PU vice-chancellor: HC allows internal panel to probe

The complainant, a senior professor at PU, had approached the High Court for directions to the PU Chancellor to independently constitute a committee to inquire into her complaint.

While upholding the constitution of an internal complaint committee (ICC) of Panjab University set up to probe the allegations of sexual harassment against a former vice-chancellor of the varsity, the Punjab and Haryana High Court has said no “reasonable or valid” grounds of bias or malice has been made out by the complainant against the constitution of the committee.

“The present petition is disposed of with liberty to the petitioner to raise all her contentions and objections for mitigation of her grievance before the ICC which shall look into the same before submitting its final report,” said Justice Arun Monga in the verdict released on Wednesday evening.

The complainant, a senior professor at PU, in her petition had approached the High Court for directions to the PU Chancellor to independently constitute a committee to inquire into the complaint submitted by her in 2015 against former vice-chancellor Arun Kumar Grover. She alleged the existing committee was constituted by the Syndicate and Senate with no independent application of mind by the Chancellor.

Observing that the law does not bar or prohibit the employer from obtaining or considering inputs from any sources while considering names for inclusion in and for constitution of the committee, the single judge said the Chancellor necessarily has to obtain such information from the sources at his disposal like Syndicate, which is the executive government of PU, and the Senate, which is its supreme body.

“Respondent No. 1 (Chancellor) being the Vice-President of India and chairman of the Council of States/Rajya Sabha, is ex-officio Chancellor of all the Central Universities in the country. There is no gain saying about importance of his functions and responsibilities for country as the high Constitutional dignitary and his extreme pre-occupation with the same,” reads the verdict.

Ruling that the committee was constituted and not merely approved by the Chancellor, the court in the verdict further rejected the contention that the resolutions passed by the Senate and Syndicate to the Chancellor for constituting the committee are without jurisdiction and said the resolutions are merely proposals or recommendations initiated at the instance of the Chancellor and MHRD.

The court ruled that every allegation or apprehension of bias — even if unfounded — against the committee or any of its members would not justify re-constitution of the committee or grant of stay on its proceedings. “Taking a contrary view would rather provide an unfair handle to and place a complainant in a commanding position, to act on her whim and fancy, to dictate and impose her own terms and wishes until constitution of a committee of her own chosen members. That would erode, if not take away, the statutory authority of the employer to constitute the Committee,” the judgment notes.