IIT Bhubaneswar scholar seeks re-investigation of her sexual harassment plaint against professor

BHUBANESWAR: A PhD scholar of IIT Bhubaneswar (IITBBS) has sent a legal notice to the institute seeking re-investigation into allegation of sexual harassment lodged by her in October last year against her supervisor.

PK Sarangi, deputy secretary (technical education), forwarded a copy of the notice to the institute on Friday.

The institute’s internal complaint committee had probed her allegation and submitted a report in January giving a clean chit to the professor.

The IIT has de-registered the woman and her husband, also a research scholar, from the PhD courses over “poor progress in research work and non-compliance of IIT regulations.” The institute cancelled the registration of her husband in February and de-deregistered her four months later in June.

In her notice, the woman has sought their re-registration and termination of the service of her tormentor. She alleged that ever since she took admission for PhD in 2011, the professor meted out rough treatment to her. However, the harassment increased after she got married (to another scholar under the same supervisor) in 2012, she said. When she took maternity leave for six months from May 2013, the professor allegedly tortured her husband. When she returned, both of them faced the torture because of which her husband had a brain stroke in January 2014, her notice said.

“The sexual harassment complaint must be reopened because the probe was done only to shield the professor. I was threatened by a member of the probe panel,” the woman scholar told TOI on Saturday.

The woman’s lawyer M Pratap said the institute’s intention raises doubts because mere testimony of the girl should have been enough to act against the teacher. “The IIT panel did not follow the principle of natural justice. There can’t be eyewitness to sexual harassment,” he said.
Moreover, even if the allegation against the professor was not proved, he should have been immediately changed as supervisor of the woman under Rule 8 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013, Pratap said.
IITBBS director R V Rajakumar said the institute had followed the appropriate rules in letter and spirit and wasted no time in instituting a probe when the allegation came. “However, the probe panel found the allegation false,” he said.

Rajakumar said de-registration of the PhDs of the woman and her husband had nothing to do with the allegation. The man could not satisfy the research programme evaluation committee (RPEC) with the progress of his research in October 2016. The senate, highest academic body of the institute, cancelled his registration based on RPEC recommendations. Similarly, the other scholar (the woman) did not turn up for registration given to her in January-April, resulting in her de-registration, the director told TOI.

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