Months after a senior faculty member of the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in Bengaluru was asked to go on compulsory retirement by the institute in October 2018 following a sexual harassment complaint against him, the Karnataka High Court has now granted him relief and stayed the order.
Giridhar Madras had been sent on compulsory retirement after a PhD student accused him of sexual harassment. Justice R Devdas passed the interim order on a petition filed by Giridhar.
Giridhar, a faculty of Chemical Engineering at IISc, had been found guilty by the institute’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of making sexually coloured remarks towards the PhD student and also calling her at odd hours, among other things. On October 17, the IISc ordered Giridhar, who had been associated with IISc since 1998, to compulsorily retire.
Giridhar contended however that the ICC should have asked the complainant to present proof such as call and message records, to substantiate her allegations. Claiming that the compulsory retirement awarded to him was based on a show-cause notice drawn from the ICC’s enquiry report, Giridhar alleged that it was based on “perceptions” and not proof.
He added that the institute as well as the Committee did not take into account the fact that the PhD student had sent a letter on January 20, 2017 where she allegedly said she was satisfied with the response submitted by him to her first complaint from December 2016. Hence, he contended that the matter should have been treated as closed.
In March 2017 however, the woman asked for permission to work under the supervision of another professor, alleging that Giridhar was ignoring her. Giridhar was not aware of the complainant’s identity at this point. The 51-year-old professor also claimed that this complaint, filed on March 29, 2017, did not contain a mention of sexual harassment allegations and the ICC should not have started an enquiry.
He mentioned that the ICC had prolonged the ruling on the matter – starting in March 2017 and finishing in February 2018 – and contended that the Committee had several procedural irregularities during his case as well.
Giridhar told the court that his chances of future employment were hampered because the IISc director had mentioned Giridhar’s name in a press meet. “It appears that the director has a personal vendetta against the petitioner as is clear from his mala fide and illegal actions,” he said in his petition. In this regard, he sought the court’s direction in initiating action against the director.