NEW DELHI: The Delhi High Court Friday sought the police response on a plea seeking direction for filing of charge sheet expeditiously in the sexual harassment case lodged against JNU professor Atul Johri by several women students.
Justice J R Midha issued a notice to the Delhi Police on the students' plea and listed the matter for further hearing on October 31.
There is a real and grave apprehension that any delay in completion of the investigation will make witnesses, most of whom are young research scholars and students, professionally and socially vulnerable to influence and intimation by the professor, the application claimed.
Filed through advocates Vrinda Grover, Ratna Appender and Soutik Banerjee, the plea said FIR was registered and statements of witnesses were recorded more than a year ago, but no charge sheet has been filed by the police.
"Law, public policy and judicial precedent requires that sexual offences against women are handled with the utmost sensitivity and investigated into and prosecuted in an expeditious manner, to curb the spiralling graph of sexual violence against women," it said.
It said this case must be treated with utmost seriousness in view of the fact that there are eight FIRs of sexual harassment and outraging the modesty against the same accused professor.
"In such circumstances, the failure to file a charge sheet despite almost a year having lapsed since the registration of FIRs sends out a signal that the police are shielding the accused from legal consequences," the plea said.
The application was filed in a pending petition in which the students have challenged the clean chit given by JNU's Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to the professor.
The ICC report of July 23 last year followed the high court's May 29, 2018 direction to the committee to find out whether a prima facie case of misconduct was made out against the professor, Atul Johri, to suspend him from the Jawaharlal Nehru University.
The lawyers for JNU and the professor had argued that the ICC has found the complaints of sexual harassment made by the women to be "malicious" and that they had allegedly motivated and instigated others to file such complaints.
The professor's lawyer had also argued that the women have "taken revenge" against him for being a "tough taskmaster".
Johri was granted bail on March 20 last year, hours after his arrest by the police.
The students also filed a contempt petition against JNU, it's vice chancellor and the professor for allegedly "willfully disobeying" the earlier directions of the high court given in its orders of May 29 and May 2, 2018.
The contempt plea came up before Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal who sent the matter before the court which is hearing the main petition.
The plea said the court had directed that Johri shall have no access to a particular laboratory and the authorities shall give complete access of the laboratory and separate keys to the students.
It said the petitioners have learnt that on the request of Johri, the executive council of JNU, in February, has allowed him access to the particular laboratory in School of Life Sciences and delegate teaching responsibilities back to him.
The plea sought contempt proceedings against JNU, VC and Johri and that the resolution passed in the EC's meeting be stayed.