Doctor alleges sexual harassment and cover-up at Puducherry’s JIPMER

The doctor, who has just completed her residency at JIPMER, said that she and her colleague received emails from a senior faculty member demanding sexual favours and threatening to fail them in the final exams if they didn’t comply.
Representative image of a woman's silhouette against a red background
Representative image of a woman's silhouette against a red background
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A doctor who has just completed her residency at Puducherry’s premiere medical facility, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education & Research (JIPMER), has alleged that she and her colleague were sexually harassed by a senior faculty member from her department. Further, she has also said that the institute has not taken her complaint seriously and is instead treating her as a suspect.

Rosha Sandesh, the doctor, says that on September 30 last year, she and her colleague received emails from this senior faculty, who will be referred to as Faculty member 1 going forward, that demanded sexual favours. After months of escalating the matter to JIPMER authorities and lodging a complaint with the Internal Committee (IC), Rosha says that in the IC report she received earlier this week, the committee had ruled the incident as an attempt to frame Faculty member 1.

In the email, a copy of which TNM has accessed, Faculty member 1 writes that if Rosha did not comply with his demands, he would fail her in her final exams. The sender again reiterates, “I will resort to any extent to make sure that you fail your exams.”

The email is rife with more threats, including that Rosha would be harassed in front of her colleagues if she did not agree to his demands. 

What has complicated the case is that Faculty member 1 appears to have used a third-party server to send the email to her JIPMER ID. The institute’s authorities and the IC are allegedly claiming that the mail was sent by Rosha herself in an attempt to frame Faculty member 1. However, Rosha tells TNM that the contents of the mail, particularly certain references to her academic life, all point to him.

Rosha also made a long statement on her social media account, detailing her ordeal and the timeline of events. She says that upon receiving the email, she notified a female faculty member who then took her case to another senior faculty, who will be referred to as Faculty member 2. She goes on to say that Faculty member 2 attempted to track down the sender’s IP address but wasn’t successful and allegedly told her that the mail seemed to be spam.

At the time, Rosha tells TNM, she had been willing to extend the benefit of the doubt to Faculty member 1 that his name and ID had been used to smear his name. What followed were multiple attempts to stop her from pursuing the matter and even making her feel as if she was the person who had committed a crime.

She and her colleague were made to sit for a meeting with Faculty member 1 during which he denied having sent the email. The meeting, she added, was conducted by Faculty member 2.

After the meeting, Rosha filed a cyber crime complaint for which she has not received any updates beyond the notification that it had been registered. Also, according to her statement, when the director of JIPMER was approached after the meeting, he allegedly told Rosha that “this is not a big thing”. Refusing to accept her complaint, he further told her to forget about the incident and take a two-day break to avail psychiatric help, she adds to TNM.

Rosha says that after speaking to other students in JIPMER, she discovered that Faculty member 1 had made similar obscene demands before and that the institute’s authorities had not taken action against him.

Her allegations to TNM against JIPMER’S IC are equally troubling. Rosha says that several of the initial meetings had not gone on record. She was told to appear before the IC on multiple occasions with barely a few minutes’ notice though it was known that she was studying for her model exams. Fearing that her case would be closed if she failed to appear, Rosha says that she complied with the IC each time. Her attempts to receive the IC’s final report were not made easy either.

By rule, Rosha should have been emailed a copy of the report. She, however, alleges that she was made to run around for several days, sent to various offices within JIPMER before she was finally handed a physical copy that clears Faculty member 1 of blame.

Rosha came out about her ordeal on January 9 and had tagged various authorities, including Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Tamilisai Soundarajan, in her post. While the Governor’s social media handle replied to the post that the matter would be looked into, so far nothing further has transpired.

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