Controversy
While questions are being raised over the one-man committee, it has also become clear that Devanga College did not have a committee in place to probe sexual harassment cases.

The sex-for-cash scandal has sent shockwaves across Tamil Nadu. A woman professor, Nirmala Devi, tried to lure four of her students into performing sexual favours for ‘high officials’ of the Madurai Kamaraj University, and as the audio of her phone conversation leaked last week, the case has become the centre of all conversations in the state. But amidst questions over who is involved in this scandal is a bigger issue that needs to be addressed: Did Devanga College for Arts do everything it should have to prevent this incident? Did it at least try to respond to it in the right manner when the issue first came up. 

Short answer to both questions: No. 

First, the college failed to refer the matter to an internal complaints committee (ICC) as required by law. The 2015 UGC regulations state that all Indian colleges and universities need to have an ICC. This committee is meant to conduct inquiries into sexual harassment complaints from students, faculty and non-teaching staff. It is also required to provide assistance to complainants if they want to file a case with the police.

When TNM spoke to R Ramasamy, the secretary of the Devanga College, he admitted that there was no internal Complaints committee in place. The college is affiliated to the Madurai Kamaraj University, and is thus required to follow the UGC regulations. 

"There was no complaints committee formed. What we did was form a group of senior professors to handle the matter,” he said, of “action” taken once the matter hit the headlines. 

“We have a women's welfare committee in college that gives female students information on rights and personal hygiene. We had one of the members also as part of the committee. The principal was heading the inquiry," he said. 

When probed further on why the UGC regulations were not followed, he did not provide an answer. 

According to UGC regulations, the college should have already had a committee in place to deal with cases of sexual harassment. The ICC – like in the case of any organisation under the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act – should have a Presiding Officer (chairperson), who is a female faculty member employed at the senior-most level. Other members must include two faculty members, two non-teaching employees and a representative from an NGO working for the rights of women. 

In addition to this, as per UGC guidelines, the committee must have three elected student representatives.

None of these guidelines were followed by the college, and that ended up affecting students in this sensitive case. 

"The girls came and complained to the principal about the matter and then we brought some senior professors to discuss the issue," the secretary claims, before abruptly ending the conversation. 

A higher educational institute (college and university) which does not have a functional ICC can be reported to the UGC as it is considered a violation. A range of actions can be taken against them, including withholding grants and declaring it ineligible for assistance programmes. In addition to this it could be publicly declared that the institution does not have a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment.

The college only went to the police over the matter following public pressure, after the audio clip was leaked. And this was a month after the incident took place. 

So what did Governor Banwarilal Purohit, who constituted a one-’man’ committee to probe the issue, have to say on this? The Governor, during his press conference on Tuesday, neither addressed the college's failures as far as the formation of ICC is concerned nor did he display sensitivity in the next step of action to be taken. 

ReadTN sex-for-cash university scandal: Why a one 'man' committee fails students