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Student bodies at National Law School of India University (NLSIU), Bangalore have demanded the rustication of a student found guilty of sexually harassing a classmate more than a year ago.
Savitri Phule Ambedkar Caravan, AOW – The NLS Feminist Alliance, and the Law and Society Committee at NLSIU have appealed to the alumni to urge the administration to ensure that justice is done in this regard.
The incident dates back to December 23, 2016, when a student of the current fourth year batch allegedly sexually assaulted a batchmate in a bus on the way back from a party. Acting on a complaint, a Sexual Harassment Inquiry Committee (SHIC) was formed in April 2017. After conducting an investigation, the SHIC, in November 2017, sent a report recommending rustication as the corrective action in the case.
The same was approved by NLSIU Registrar Prof OV Nandimath, vide an order dated November 27, 2017. The accused then filed a review before Vice-Chancellor Prof Venkata Rao, who on January 23 this year, upheld the Registrar’s order. Since then, the order for rustication has been pending with the Executive Council of NLSIU, which has not yet convened in order to confirm the punishment.
Meanwhile, the accused student approached the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) seeking a stay on the implementation of the Registrar’s order. The NCSC then sent a letter to Prof Rao dated January 30, requesting him to cancel the rustication order. The Commission also requested the University to submit the documents related to the case. In response, Prof Rao has apparently assured the NCSC that no action has been taken.
As a result, the rustication of the accused has been put on hold, with no ostensible end in sight. In its letter to the alumni, the student bodies have stated,
“We submit that this action of the NCSC is ultra vires to the Rules of Procedure which only grant them powers of a civil court for the purposes of conducting an investigation (powers like summoning witnesses and asking for documents) and in no way allows them to issue a restraining order to the implementation of an internal order of the college.
Moreover the same was done in violation of the Principles of Natural Justice since no opportunity of being heard was given to the College or to the aggrieved student before issuing the same. Further, the College is in no way bound by the ultra vires order of the NCSC.”
The fact that no action has been taken against the accused student for one year and four months is in violation of Rule 18 of the Code to Combat Sexual Harassment, 2002, which stipulates that the total time frame from the time inquiry is initiated to the recommendations of the SHIC should not exceed three months, and that the final decision of the Registrar should come within a month thereafter. The letter states,
“This delay in implementation is more troubling in light of the trauma it is causing the aggrieved student to be sitting in class every day with the perpetrator of this heinous crime. This undermines the effort it took on the part of the aggrieved student to access an institutional mechanism and undergo inquiry proceedings for 11 months. We also believe that this delay will disincentivise students from filing a complaint with the SHIC in the future, therefore defeating the purposes of the Code and the Act.”
Therefore, the students are demanding that the college administration immediately holds the Executive Council meeting in order to ensure implementation of the Registrar’s November 27 order. Further, it has been appealed that the administration not stay the Registrar’s order on the basis of the NCSC recommendation.
The students have urged the alumni to come out in support of a petition calling for a speedy resolution to the issue.
Read the petition:
Read the Registrar’s order dated November 27, 2017: