An IIT Guwahati professor has been suspended for allegedly sending “unwarranted” messages to a PhD student. While the student lodged an FIR against the professor, who has been granted bail, students are demanding stricter action.
Protesting delay in action against the professor, students had last week gone on a 24-hour silent protest.
40-year-old Prof Lingaraj Sahoo of IIT Guwahati’s Biotechnology department allegedly sent messages to the PhD scholar. The Women’s Working Committee (WWC) of IIT Guwahati submitted a report saying the professor subjected the student to harassment, mental agony and indignity.
“That the Professor abused his position...behaved in a manner... that caused embarrassment... can be inferred as unwelcome behaviour which amounts to sexual harassment at workplace”, the WWC report to the IIT Director says.
The committee added that Prof Sahoo’s conduct disrupted the student’s research work, causing conditions in which she could not continue under his supervision, and which amounted to “obstruction to her right as a student to pursue education in liberal academic conditions”.
“The Director considers the WWC report as a preliminary report for further action while, according to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal)... the Supreme Court has clarified that the report of the complaints committee is final and that the disciplinary authority can only deal with punishment but not start a second stage enquiry...Complaints have to be treated in a time-bound manner”, students said on the issue.
Prof Gautam Barua, Director, IIT Guwahati, when contacted, told The Indian Express that while he understood students are upset, it was a legal requirement to set up a new committee.
“While I understand emotions are running high after the preliminary report showed messages were being sent to the student, more complaints have begun to come in against the faculty member and a committee has to be set up to ensure he does not get away lightly, if guilty. I am taking legal advice and understand acting hastily could benefit the perpetrator”, Barua said.