The Madras High Court has ordered a private homoeopathy medical college of Chennai to pay Rs five lakh as compensation for harassing one of its women students challenging its dress code to wear ‘sari’ only. A bench of justices K K Sasidharan and M V Muralidaran ordered Venkateswara Homoeopathy Medical College to pay a compensation of Rs 5 lakh to its alumni Kamalam, setting aside the court’s single-judge bench order awarding her a compensation of Rs 25,000 only. The single judge bench had awarded the meagre compensation to Kamalam after she approached the court for the third time amid the repeated instances of harassment by the college. In her plea, Kamalam had told the division bench that she had joined the Bachelor of Homoeopath Medicine and Surgery (BHMS) course in Venkateswara Homoeopathy Medical College and had graduated from there in August 2008, after which she joined the same college as an intern. During her internship, the college introduced a dress code for women, stipulating that they would wear only ‘Saree’ and that no other dress. Her request to wear ‘Salwar Kameez’ was rejected by the management. She was, however, denied training even after she attended duty wearing ‘the dress’ from November 11 2008, she said. Kamalam then moved the high court seeking to prevent the college from imposing dress code, which was allowed by a single judge on June 20, 2009.
The judge also directed the management to permit her to wear ‘Salwar Kameez’ and to continue her internship, which she did. She was, however, denied provisional certificate and other necessary certificates by the college due to which she could not register as a doctor and commence practise. At this, she had to move the high court again at a second time. the institute, however, issued her all necessary certificates during the pendency of her petition and nine months after completion of the course. The petitioner, however, alleged that even then the college deliberately omitted mentioning the conduct, character and other particulars in her transfer certificate, prompting her to approach the court for the third time, after which the court ordered the institute to pay her Rs 25,000 as compensation for harassing her.
When her appeal came up for hearing, Kamalam contended that the single judge’s order had details of the harassment and mental agony she suffered and that she was made to file a series of writ petitions to continue the internship and even to obtain the certificates. Contending that the meagre compensation is not sufficient for the mental agony suffered by her, she sought the court enhance the compensation. Concurring with her submissions, the bench granted Rs five lakh compensation with a direction to the Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University to conduct an enquiry into the issue and take appropriate action on merits.