NCW Report finds RGNUL guilty of Gender Discrimination, suggests corrective measures

Meera Emmanuel May 1 2019
RGNUL

A three-member team of the National Commission for Women (NCW) has recommended several corrective measures to counter the gender discrimination found to be prevalent at the Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law (RGNUL), Patiala.

A fact-finding team comprising Chairperson Chandramukhi Devi and members Soso Shazia and advocate Nisha Rishi had visited the campus on March 20, this year. The visit was carried out after the NCW took cognisance of a complaint regarding gender-based inequality at RGNUL sent by the students on March 19.

Among the problems noted by the team following their visit was the deficiency of redressal mechanisms for student grievances and the lack of awareness regarding the legal remedies available in terms of any complaint relating to sexual harassment, including the mechanism of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC).

Notably, on the day of the NCW team's visit, Hostel Warden Dr Shilpa Jain withdrew from the RGNUL ICC on coming to know of student complaints made against her. During the course of interaction with over 40 female students of RGNUL, the NCW team was apprised that Dr Jain frequently behaved in a dictatorial manner.

On a related note, two more members of RGNUL nine-member ICC (including Dr Jain) have been named in the NCW report as having indulged in impulsive and rude behaviour towards the students. In this regard, the report names Dr Manoj Kumar Sharma and University-appointed gynaecologist, Dr Gayatri Sharma. Notably, the students told the NCW team that girls were asked questions by Dr Sharma about having physical relations with boys.

Other faculty members whose conduct has been objected to by the NCW include Captain SP Singh, Professor Vipin and Professor Anand Pawar.

SP Singh, the erstwhile University Administrative Officer, is currently on compulsory leave.  A five-day peaceful protest carried out by the students last March, objecting to the alleged systematic maladministration at RGNUL, had culminated in the suspension of Singh until the conclusion of an inquiry into allegations of his misconduct.

The inquiry is ongoing under the aegis of Additional District and Sessions Judge, Manjot Kaur, the judicial officer appointed for the task by University Chancellor, Justice Krishna Murari. Students have been asked to testify before the commission concerning the complaints against Professor Singh. Prior to the commencement of inquiry proceedings, the students also submitted a detailed complaint against the alleged misconduct of SP Singh during his time as the Administrative Officer.

Before the NCW team, the students also raised general issues affecting women students on campus in particular. The team was told that the girls were pressurised to stay back in rooms and that their parents are intimated even on petty issues. Other specific issues included that leave passes were not signed on time and the leave/access registers were only maintained for girl students.

A part of the NCW report records in particular that Hostel Warden, Dr Jain had stated that she had carried girl students found in an intoxicated state back to the girls' hostel.  However, when asked of whether there were written records reflecting that disciplinary action had been taken against such students, Dr Jain answered in the negative.

To compile the report, the team interacted with administrative authorities, including Vice-Chancellor Paramjit Jaiswal, and students of RGNUL, including the six who were suspended prior to the March protests. The team was also briefed regarding the events leading up to student protests in March.

Based on their observations, the team has recommended that implementation of the following measures:

  • Gender Discrimination - The University Administration must ensure gender equality; the rules for both boys and girls should be the same at all levels.
  • Working of ICC - The University Administration is advised to maintain the proper functioning of the ICC and students must be aware of the ICC formulated at University level and its functioning.
  • Separate Grievance Cell - University Administration is advised to maintain one separate member grievance cell of student’s choice for them to file their complaints freely.
  • Maintenance of records - written records of complaints and disciplinary action must be maintained
  • Right to Privacy, Liberty - Students should feel free to move within the University Premises and rules and regulations should be the same for boys and girls.
  • Awareness camps and seminars must be conducted regularly to raise awareness regarding sexual harassment
  • Maintenance of complaint boxes in common areas such as libraries, mess etc. where students could drop complaints which may be dealt with by the ICC
  • Interaction Programme - The Vice-Chancellor is advised to hold an open interaction programme with the University students to avoid any chaos/protests in the future
  • The administration has been advised to keep the NCW informed regarding inquiries pending against faculty members
  • The post of hostel warden is to be kept separate from the University administration
  • A professional counsellor should be engaged to guide the students on their rights and duties.

Welcoming the NCW report, RGNUL students released the following statement,

"The students thank the Hon'ble National Commission for Women for their report. This was something that should have been done long back but with the amount of arbitrary pressure and power the administration imposes of students made it an impossible exercise till we all decided we have had enough of his tyranny. 

The enquiry against SP Singh has been on and students have engaged legal representation to handle the enquiry. Lawyers Arjun Sheoran, Neha Sonawane, Aditi Sheoran and Amrita Garg from Vaakya Legal, a law firm in Chandigarh, are representing the students.

The students have been told to produce witnesses in front of Smt. Manjot Kaur, Enquiry Officer in the SP Singh case but students are very scared of appearing in front of him fearing that once he knows the identity of the students, the administration will ensure that revenge is taken. Even now, there are threats from faculty members, making jokes about failing us in the examinations, calls to parents etc.

As stated in our complaint, we hold the authorities morally liable since the conduct of all persons mentioned in the NCW complaint was an open secret on the entire campus."

Read the NCW Team's report:

NCW Report of RGNUL-2-2