BENGALURU: The Karnataka High Court on Tuesday set aside the compulsory retirement of Prof Giridhar Madras of the Department of Chemical Engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), in connection with a case of alleged sexual harassment at the workplace.
The court found serious errors committed by the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and the Disciplinary Authority in holding an inquiry against the professor.
Prof Giridhar Madras (51), a resident of Nagarbhavi, had approached the court over his compulsory retirement. Justice P B Bajanthri set aside the inquiry report dated February 28, 2018 submitted by the ICC and order dated October 17, 2018 issued by IISc. “... Due to lapses on the part of Inquiry Committee and Disciplinary Authority, the whole proceedings are vitiated till imposition of penalty”, the court said.
This apart, the court said that in Giridhar’s case, due to lack/ignorance of procedure prescribed under the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules 1964, the Central Civil Service Classification (Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965, the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and Rules 2014, IISc Rules for Internal Committee, 2017, and various official memorandum issued by Government of India from time to time, the ICC and Disciplinary Authority have committed errors in not following the stipulated provisions. Consequently, from the inception in not furnishing a copy of the complain, the relevant procedures have not been followed.Thus, Giridhar is entitled to relief only on the legal issues, the court said.
In view of this, the court directed the Union government to conduct refresher training programme for the Committee Members as well as Disciplinary Authority.
“The Government of India/Disciplinary Authority/experts should conduct programme to apprise how to conduct inquiry in a sexual harassment case. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) is requested to make necessary arrangements for refresher training programme for the members of the committee and disciplinary authorities so as to avoid any procedural/violation of statutory rules in conducting inquiry and punishing the perpetrators. A copy of this order should be communicated to the
DoPT Secretary, and Law Department of Government of India”, the court said.
In addition, the court has directed the authorities concerned to take appropriate action against the Internal Complaints Committee members and Director of IISc in accordance with the law for violating Sections 16 and 17 of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, after providing ample opportunity to them. The proceedings should be completed within four months, the court said.
Giving reasons for on this direction, the court said that Giridhar Madras contented that there is violation of Section 16 and 17 of the Act, 2013 and both IISC and ICC have denied that they have gone to the press, whereas it is evident that both Director and Committee have given statements. “It is evident that both Director and the ICC have committed error in giving statement to the press and violated the said provisions. The competent authority is directed to take action against them in accordance with law”, the court said.
A student of Prof Giridhar Madras had made certain allegations of sexual harassment. She had lodged a complaint on November 10, 2016 with the ICC of IISc. On December 7, 2016, notice was issued to Giridhar and he submitted his explanation pursuant to the meeting with ICC on January 13, 2017. On January 20 that year, the complainant requested the Committee not to proceed further with the enquiry. Later, she filed a complaint with ICC stating that she was being ignored by the petitioner and not meeting for work-related matters. The petitioner’s was made known to the complainant after nearly about 140 days on receipt of complaint dated November 12, 2016.
Finally, the ICC submitted its inquiry report while recommending to take action against petitioner on February 28, 2018. Prof Giridhar was retired compulsory as a measure of penalty while extending 75 percent of admissible pension on October 17, 2018.