Over the past 18 months, women students and alumni of more than three NLUs (National Law Universities) have complained about sexual harassment either by fellow students or the staff. This begs the question: if even the National Law Schools aren’t safe for women, what place is?
For starters, complaints from the Bengaluru and Lucknow campus were received. The Bengaluru campus inquired into the charges and rusticated the accused students. However, this was not an easy win. While the incident occurred way back in December 2016, no concrete steps were taken for more than a year. Even after 16 months from the complaint being lodged with internal redressal cell (SHIC), no action was taken against the accused, even though the cell had found him guilty and liable to be rusticated in November 2017. This led to various agitations and protests by the students. As per their petition, there was a delay of 410 days. It is important to note that as per Rule 18 of the Code to Combat Sexual Harassment published by the University, the total time frame for the closure of such cases is only 90 days. The implementation of the Registrar’s order can be delayed for a maximum of one month, pending the completion of the review process, by the Director. However, in this case, five months had passed, and no actual or genuine efforts were made to implement the corrective action.
Even in Lucknow, the students had to stage continuous protests in September 2017 for an action to be taken. The complainant had requested a judicial probe into the matter and finally, the students convinced Vice-Chancellor Professor Gurdip Singh to institute a judicial committee to probe the allegations.
The latest complaint comes from the Gandhinagar campus, where a girl student posted her friend’s ordeal on Facebook. Excerpt of the post reads: “This person holds a position of influence in one of the committees of GNLU. Under the garb of summoning my friend for work, he called her to the committee room in the Admin block at an ungodly hour. This was not the first time he had done this.
…. She was terrified. But she was far more scared of confronting him and the consequences that might entail. In that prolonged moment of terror, a hundred thoughts went through her mind, most of them about how a confrontation would lead to an all-out war, and that there might be people who will not believe her, people who will discuss her and people who will attack her.”
The post was featured and highlighted by a website, which led to an outpour of support. This prompted another student to share her story and file a complaint against a member of the staff. It was alleged that he had, over the course of a year, made recurring sexual remarks, persistently tried to contact her on social media and singled her out on campus, abusing his role.
These complaints and posts are a huge reality check for the legal fraternity. What is common in all these instances is the lack of willingness and promptness on the side of the University to take an action proportionate to the horrendous act done by the accused. In fact, the actions taken, if any, have mostly been a result of relentless protests by the students. It goes without saying that sexual harassment is an extremely serious issue, but the patriarchal society often makes the survivor pay for such an act instead of the perpetrator.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: This article is written by Aditi Garg, our intern.