Guwahati: Following a Facebook post alleging the National Law University and Judicial Academy Assam (NLUJAA) Vice-Chancellor Prof JS Patil with charges of sexual harassment, locals from Gauripur area have filed an FIR against him with North Guwahati police. The locals have alleged that the Vice-Chancellor has misbehaved with the women in their neighbourhood.
It all started after a neighbour of the V-C wrote on a Facebook page ‘National Law University and Judicial Academy Model United Nations’ alleging him of his misdeeds. The post alleged that the V-C exposes himself indecently to his female neighbours. The post is now deleted from the Facebook page, however, Headline8 have accessed the screenshot of it.
This incident narrates another allegation against the V-C for using harassing and sexist language against the female faculty members of the university. In December 2016, a complaint was filed to Justice Ajit Singh, the then Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court and Chancellor, NLUJAA. Following the complaint, the university’s general council intervened and took steps to ameliorate the suffering of the faculty members.
According to our sources, the faculty members last month filed another complaint against him on the charging of a distressing work environment. However, denying of all the past allegation made against him, he told Legally India that the allegation is tarnishing his and the university’s image. In response to this, a faculty member said, “The petition filed in 2016 was not done to tarnish the reputation of the University but to be provided with a distress free environment at our workplace.”
We tried to reach out to the V-C however, he was unavailable to respond. Sources have claimed that he has gone on leave following the allegation levelled against him. Reportedly, he has also vacated his accommodation after the locals allegedly attacked his residence. “He has silently vacated his residence and has moved to an apartment nearby which houses the university’s employees,” said a source on anonymity.
Legally India reported that the V-C claimed to have the support of the present Chief Justice, Gauhati High Court. He said, “I have filed a counter FIR against the person with due permission of superior authorities.” However, we could not verify the same.
Faculty members demand a fair trial
Reacting to the statement made by the V-C of having the “backing” of the Chancellor, faculty members of the university issued a rejoinder. “Such a statement would intimidate, demoralize and frighten the complainants and all those who have raised their concern on this matter. Such a statement may also raise concerns on whether a fair investigation of the matter would take place,” mentioned the rejoinder.
Signed by 13 faculty members of the university, the rejoinder adds, “We believe it is inappropriate on the part of Prof. Patil to make such statements of having the support of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of the Gauhati High Court when investigation on the matter has been duly initiated by the police.”
The faculty members had earlier approached the Registrar of the university to take actions to safeguard the interest of the university. However, it is reported that the Registrar denied filing a complaint, instead, he alleged that the faculty members, administration and students are conspiring against the V-C.
“The Registrar imputed that members of the faculty, administration and students are conspiring against the Vice-Chancellor. We duly registered our protest against the unfounded allegations levelled against us“
Advocate Anjanav Gogoi, an alumnus of the university have also filed a complaint, asking for a proper investigation on the issue. “Being an alumnus of the university, I don’t want my university’s reputation to deteriorate. I have a filed a complaint with the North Guwahati Outpost to investigate the matter immediately,” he told Headline8. Moreover, around 40 alumni wrote a letter to the university administration including the Registrar and have asked them to come forward to clear their stand on the allegation made against the V-C. “Strictest action should be taken against the person, whosever is found guilty,” added Gogoi.
Student body says V-C should step down temporarily
The student body of the university has also written to the Chancellor, NLUJAA Justice Ajai Lamba, requesting him to direct the V-C to step down temporarily until the allegation levelled against him is investigated. Student Bar Council (SBC), NLU Assam have expressed dissatisfaction on the remarks made by the V-C of having the backing of the higher authority.
“We condemn the statements made by the Vice-chancellor which may derail the hope of a fair trial, intimidate the complainants, blame the students, faculty and staff members of the conspiracy and may defame the position of the Chief Justice of Gauhati High Court,” said a statement by the SBC.
“The statement given by the Vice-Chancellor is against the principles of natural justice and may severely malign the reputation of the Judiciary as a whole.”
SBC has also demanded a fair trial from the university and said, “We request the Registrar to not make allegations [which] hurts our sentiments [such as] students and faculty members are conspiring to remove the vice-chancellor from his position.” They have also requested the Kamrup Rural police to investigate the matter and ensure the safety of the complainants and their families.
A source has revealed that on July 18th, the day when the Facebook post was made, women from the Gauripur area protested outside the V-C residence. However, there is no FIR filed in this regard. Speaking to Headline8, the in-charge of North Guwahati outpost, said, “Few women filed an FIR against the Vice-Chancellor and a case has been registered. We are investigating the matter.” The FIR is filed under the section 354A, 294 and 509 of Indian Penal Code (IPC), which deals with sexual harassment, obscenity and words or acts intended to insult the modesty of a woman.
Besides, the faculty members have written to the National Commission for Women (NCW) and Assam State Commission for Women for intervention on this issue. They have demanded that the allegation made against them for conspiring against the V-C to be taken down. “We appeal for your intervention in the matter as we are distressed and mortified by the imputation made against us by the Vice-Chancellor and Registrar of our University,” mentions the letter.
“If there is an allegation of such extreme against a person holding an honourable position, he should step down as to ensure a fair trial,” said a student. Alumni of the university have demanded the appointment of an interim V-C until this case is investigated. “To ensure a fair trial and not influence the investigation, he [V-C] should step down immediately,” said Anjanav Gogoi.
Alumni have come in solidarity with the faculty members, administrative staffs and students and requested for a fair and unbiased investigation into the allegations, free from any influence. “Bring the truth to light and take appropriate legal actions against the Vice-Chancellor, if he is found guilty, or against any other person who is found to have levelled false and baseless allegations, if that is the case,” said a joint statement.
Headline8 tried to reach out the V-C, however, we are yet to get any response. This part will be added to the story as and when we get his response.