Women’s groups and individuals have written an open letter to the President of India protesting the appointment of Professor Bidyut Chakraborty to the Executive Council of JNU despite the case of sexual harassment against him. Activists have also expressed concern over the reports that his name features as a candidate for the prestigious position of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Delhi
By Team FI
Eight years ago a sexual harassment case was filed by an employee of Gandhi Bhawan against Professor Bidyut Chakraborty who was then the institution’s director. The committee of Delhi University on Sexual Harassment filed its report which led to the removal of Professor Chakrabarty from the position of Director, Head of the Department of Political Science and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences. In October of this year, Professor Chakrabarty was appointed to the Executive Council of Jawarharlal Nehru University. Women’s organisations and individuals, in an open letter to the President of India, have pointed out that such a position “demand impeccable record of academic excellence and integrity. However, it would appear that a record of sexual harassment does not impact the process of appointments in Universities.”
The following is the full text of the letter:
An Open Letter to the President of India: Please take sexual harassment seriously
It is shocking that the Hon’ble Visitor appointed Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty to the Executive Council of JNU on 8 October 2015 and his name now features as a candidate for the prestigious position of the Vice Chancellor of the University of Delhi, if this is accurately reported in the media. 1 Both these positions—either as a Vice Chancellor or as a nominated member in an Executive Council of a University—demand impeccable record of academic excellence and integrity. However, it would appear that a record of sexual harassment does not impact the process of appointments in Universities.
It is well known that a sexual harassment case was made by an employee of Gandhi Bhawan on 4.4.07 against the Director, Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty. The Delhi University apex committee on Sexual Harassment vide its report that was tabled and accepted by the Executive Council Resolution No 114 dated 8.10.07 resolved that:
1. A letter of warning be issued to Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty.
2. He should be asked to step down from the Directorship of Gandhi Bhawan.
3. He should be debarred from holding any administrative post in the University for a period of three years.
Prof Chakrabarty was removed from the position of Director, Gandhi Bhawan, Head of the Department of Political Science and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences.
Prof Chakrabarty petitioned to the High Court, Delhi, not on the merits of the complaint but his right to cross-examine the witness (WPC No 8227/2007 dated 29.5.09). The Supreme Court in its order dated 12.1.10 for Special Leave to Appeal directed that cross examination for witnesses be carried out though the ‘witnesses need not be revealed’ and appointed Ms Binu Tamta, the Court Commissioner for the purpose of getting ‘answers to questions’ to be supplied by the respondent Prof Chakrabarty. The statements recorded by the Court Commissioner were heard on 7.5.10 and it was decided that the same be handed over to the Apex Committee for further action and closed the matter.
The Apex Committee considered the court recordings and submitted its report to the EC. The report was finally tabled in the EC on 21.3.12 and Resolution 235 accepted the findings of the committee. ‘The Council further resolved that Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty, be debarred from all the administrative posts and supervisory duties in the University for the remainder period out of the 3 years, if any.’ Page 2 of 3
The Assistant Registrar (CR & Vigilance) wrote to the Head of the Department, Political Science vide letter no. CR-Vigilance/069/2006/17 dated 23.5.12 to implement the above EC resolution.
Further it may be pointed out that Prof. Chakravarti had petitioned the Delhi High Court also to quash ‘ordinance XV-D of Delhi University on the ground that it is violative of Article(s) 14, 16 and 311 of the Constitution’ (Prof. Bidyug Chakraborty vs Delhi University & Ors., W.P.(C) No.8226/2007, 29 May 2009 at para 2). Justice Sikri and Justice Jain of the Delhi High Court held that since they had ‘read the requirements of complying with fundamental principles of natural justice as implicit in the inquiry procedure’, there was no need to ‘strike down the relevant provisions of Ordinance XV-D of the University of Delhi’ (Prof. Bidyug Chakraborty vs Delhi University & Ors., W.P.(C) No.8226/2007, 29 May 2009 at para 19).
The Visitor and the selection committee have chosen to ignore the Vishakha guidelines wherein the Supreme Court noted that each incident of sexual harassment is a violation of fundamental rights of gender equality and the right of life and liberty: a ‘clear violation of the rights under Articles 14, 15 and 21 of Constitution’.
Any Vice Chancellor or Executive Council member must possess a sterling record on gender equality. These positions demand gender just governance of Universities which includes making policies, judging cases of sexual harassment and an active implementation of the law against sexual harassment at the workplace.
While it is constitutionally mandated that Universities must prevent and redress sexual harassment, it is equally the constitutional duty of any selection committee and the Visitor not to appoint persons who have a record of sexual harassment on such bodies.
We, the undersigned, representing women’s organisations, students and teachers, request the Visitor to uphold this constitutional duty by appointing to such positions only those persons whose commitment to gender justice is beyond question.
1. Sehba Farooqui and Maimoona Mollah, AIDWA
2. Kavita Krishnan, AIPWA
3. Sadhna Arya and Vani Subramanium, Saheli
4. Poonam Kaushik, Pragatisheel Mahila Sangathan
5. Geetha Nambisan, Jagori
6. Padmini Kumar, Joint Women’s Programme (JWP)
7. Kalyani Menon Sen, Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression
8. Moushumi Basu and Deepika Tandon, Secretaries, PUDR
9. Pamela Philipose, Senior Journalist
10. Shambhavi Prakash, Assistant Professor, CGS, SLLC&S, Jawaharlal Nehru University
11. Dr. Rajesh Kumar Jha, Rajdhani College, DU
12. Dr. Premchand, ARSD college, DU
13. Pawan Kumar, Aryabhatta College, DU
14. Satyajit Singh, Professor Dept. of Political Science, DU
15. Dr. Navin Gaur, Dyal Singh College, DU
16. Tanvir Aeijaz, Ramjas College, DU
17. Dr. Mihir Pandey, Ramjas College, DU
18. Dr. Vinita Chandra, Ramjas College, DU
19. Achin Vanaik, Former Head of Dept of Political Science, DU
20. Ayesha Kidwai, Professor, CL, SLLC&S Jawaharlal Nehru University
21. Nivedita Menon, Professor, CCPPT, Jawaharlal Nehru University
22. Jayati Ghosh, Professor, CESP, SSS, Jawaharlal Nehru University
23. Uma Chakravarti, Feminist Historian, Delhi
24. Anand Chakravarti, Retired Professor, Dept. of Sociology, Delhi University
25. Biswamoy Pati, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Delhi
26. Rajni Palriwala, Professor, Dept. of Sociology, Delhi University
27. Kalpana Kannabiran, Director, CSD, Hyderabad
28. Kaveri Indira, University of Hyderabad
29. Uma V Chandru, Independent Researcher, Bangalore
30. Dr Nisha Biswas, Retired Scientist, Kolkata
31. Patricia Uberoi, Retired Professor of Sociology, Institute of Economic Growth
32. Kumkum Roy, Professor, CHS, SSS, Jawaharlal Nehru University
33. Brinda Bose, CES, SLLC&S, Jawaharlal Nehru University
34. Mohan Rao, Professor, CSMCH, SSS, Jawaharlal Nehru University
35. Ritoo M. Jerath, Professor, CRS, SLLC&S, Jawaharlal Nehru University
36. Madhu Sahni, Professor, CGS, SLLC&S, Jawaharlal Nehru University
37. Ranjani Mazumdar, Professor, SAA, Jawaharlal Nehru University
38. Urmimala Sarkar, Professor, SAA, Jawaharlal Nehru University
39. V. Sujatha, Professor, CSSS, SSS, Jawaharlal Nehru University
40. Sameena Dalwai, Associate Professor, Jindal Global Law School, JGU
41. Saptarshi Mandal, Assistant Professor, Jindal Global Law School, JGU
42. Chinmayi Arun, Assistant Professor, NLUD, Delhi
43. Jhuma Sen, Assistant Professor, Jindal Global Law School, JGU
44. Pratiksha Baxi, Associate Professor, CSLG, Jawaharlal Nehru University