Pondicherry University directed to amend Sections 2(h) and 8 of Ordinance No. 8 to include the expression ‘sexual harassment of students’

Madras High Court: While deciding the instant petition dealing with sexual harassment of the students within the college premises, the Court berating the University administration for their insensitive approach towards the petitioner’s grievances, ordered the authorities of Pondicherry University to amend the Sections 2(h) and 8 of the Administrative Ordinance No. 8 (Ordinance Governing the Code of Conduct and Discipline for Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment), dealing with sexual harassment and protection against victimization respectively to include the expression ‘sexual harassment of students’ and directed the University’s Anti Sexual Harassment Committee to enquire into the complaints of sexual harassment raised by the petitioners.

In the instant case the petitioners had complained against some of their fellow students for passing lewd remarks and threatening to rape them. The said incident evoked strong response from the student community after the petitioners lodged a complaint with the Police and the incident was covered by two leading national dailies. However upon conducting an enquiry the University authorities dismissed the incident as a mere clash between two groups. The petitioners through counsel R. Vaigai argued that the authorities were obliged hold the first enquiry into the complaint of sexual harassment instead they termed the whole incident as a clash and punished the petitioners and the perpetrators alike while the respondent counsel R. Krishnamurthy emphasized that the case was essentially of ragging.

With the facts and arguments before them the Court on the lines of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and CEDAW observed that the impugned Sections does not cover the cases where the students are the perpetrators. The Court stated that a complaint of sexual harassment is more serious than that of ragging; therefore the Vice Chancellor should have approached the Anti Sexual Harassment Committee first for the enquiry. The Court further observed that by brushing aside the complaints of the petitioners as an outcome of a group clash and rivalry and by branding the petitioners as indulging in political activities, the respondents have belittled the very nature of the complaints and their attempt to blame the victims is nothing but a form of secondary victimization. Terming the case at hand to be of secondary victimization of the petitioners, the Court giving the above directions concluded that the authorities of the respondent University appear to lack sensitivity towards the right of women students to dignity.M .Kavya v. The Chairman, UGC, 2014 SCC OnLine Mad 9067, decided on 04.12.2014


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