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File photo of JNU administrative building. (Ajay Aggarwal/HT file photo)

JNU notifies new sexual harassment policy

WT24 Desk

Jawaharlal Nehru University, which received maximum number of sexual harassment complaints by any educational institution in Delhi in the past two years, has notified a revamped sexual harassment policy that includes penalty provisions for false complaints, PTI reports.

According to a Delhi Commission for Women (DCW) report, 101 cases of sexual harassment were reported from various universities in Delhi, barring the Delhi University, since 2013. Of these, about 50% were reported in JNU. The DU had not submitted the list of such cases.

JNU has Gender Sensitisation Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH), a central body which deals with complaints of this nature from across the university departments.

The panel had submitted a draft of the revised rules and procedures in accordance with the 2013 guidelines of the Supreme Court to Vice Chancellor SK Sopory in September this year which has been approved by the varsity’s Executive Council (EC).

One of the major amendments in the policy is introduction of a provision for protection from victimisation of the complainant as well as witnesses besides a penalty provision for false complaints.  The revamped policy also has different clauses for “Sexual Harassment at workplace” and “Sexual harassment in Academic Spheres” and for re-appealing if the complainant is dissatisfied with GSCASH’s decision.

According to the notified policy, “If the committee finds that a complaint registered by a person is false, he or she will be served a show-cause notice to detail the reasons behind doing so.”   “In the event of no, insufficient, or unconvincing explanation, GSCASH shall forward its findings to the appropriate university authority for further action which

might include a restraint order, change in hostel or a disciplinary action,” it says.  The university will also ensure that the defendant does not evaluate the examination or supervise the research of the complainant and vice versa to ensure there is no victimisation.  GSCASH was instituted by the university in 1999 under the Vishaka guidelines of the Supreme Court.

The panel has representatives from JNU Students Union (JNUSU), JNU Officers’ Association (JNUOA), hostel wardens, faculty and administrative staff.  The body has three major functions: gender sensitisation and orientation, crisis management and mediation, and formal enquiry and redressal. Installation of sanitary pad dispensers, identification of third gender in the university admission forms are among the many key changes brought in recent years by the GSCASH.

However, a group of JNU teachers had last month questioned the working of GSCASH, alleging that its “processes are perverted”. Demanding that JNU be a “gender-sensitive and gender-just” campus, a group of teachers has written an open letter to the varsity administration seeking its intervention to improve the functioning of GSCASH.

The teachers had also alleged that the confidentiality with regard to complaints was being “blatantly violated”, leading to defaming the complainants and the putting their integrity on “public trial”. The committee had come out with a clarification saying that “it engages and encourages the community to file such cases in a confidential manner, without engaging unwanted attention and speculation at the same time”.

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