The Gujarat National Law University (GNLU) on Thursday told the Gujarat High Court that along with its internal committee, it has also reconstituted its fact-finding committee to look into allegations of sexual harassment and queerphobia.
The move comes after allegations of rape and queerphobia surfaced in September at GNLU in Gandhinagar. A division bench of the HC had in October taken strong objections to the way the institute has dealt with the matter since, even going on to observe that the registrar of the institute is putting “an over anxious effort to hush hush the whole matter in a summary way”.
The observation came following submissions made earlier by Advocate General Kamal Trivedi – appearing on behalf of GNLU – which revealed that the university’s internal complaint committee (ICC) chairperson is also a member of an independent fact-finding committee constituted to probe the allegations. The court was also unimpressed by the way the ICC conducted its inquiry into the matter.
Trivedi told the division bench of Chief Justice Sunita Agarwal and Justice Aniruddha Mayee on Monday that the reconstituted fact-finding committee comprises retired Gujarat HC judge, Justice Harsha Devani as the chairperson, and two other members – Bhargavi Dave, secretary of State Human Rights Commission and Surbhi Mathur, associate professor of school of forensic sciences at National Forensic Sciences University.
The court was also informed that the committee has twice held interactions with students on the campus and the students, too, have visited the committee chairperson at her residence and divulged whatever they wanted to.
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Further, the HC was told that the university’s internal committee has been reconstituted, and that GNLU is taking care to sensitise students about gender issues and is adopting a zero tolerance policy on any case of violation of dignity of students or sexual harassment in any manner.
Maintaining that exams are imminent, following which the students will leave for their internships and only come back to the campus in January next year, Trivedi requested the bench to keep the matter alive until then. He said that the fact-finding committee will file its report once it receives any pertinent input.
Noting that the inquiry is underway, the HC scheduled the next hearing on December 18. Suggesting that the inquiry be concluded by the next date of hearing and appropriate action be taken, the court also instructed that an affidavit be filed of the actions thus taken by December 18.