Biased Inquiry Against Nivedita Menon by JNU Admin Questioned


Senior activists, academics and public intellectuals have questioned the biased attitude of the JNU administration in adopting unfair rpocedures against a JNU professor, Nivedita Menon. Menon is also Chairperson of the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Thought at the School of International Studies, JNU. The person chosen to head the ‘inquiry committee’ against Ms Menon is none less than Professor Bidyut Chakarabarti, a man against whom there had been a sexual harassment complaint and moreoever a procedure in which Ms Menon had deposed against him!
The text of the signature campaign protesting this baised procedure reads:
We the undersigned women’s rights groups, activists and academics, are shocked to learn that the JNU administration has adopted a biased and mala fide procedure to institute an enquiry against Professor Nivedita Menon, eminent academic and well-known feminist who is Chairperson of the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Thought at the School of International Studies, JNU. We are appalled to learn that Professor Bidyut Chakrabarti has been appointed as the head of the inquiry committee against Nivedita Menon, even though it has been brought to the notice of the administration that Prof. Menon in 2007 had deposed before the committee against Prof. Chakrabarti in an inquiry in a sexual harassment complaint at Delhi University. The appointment of Professor Chakrabarti (who is an external member of JNU’s Executive Council) as head of an enquiry committee against Professor Menon, who testified against him earlier, reeks of bias amounting to a breach of Professor Menon’s right to a fair and impartial inquiry.

It is shocking that members of JNU’s Academic Council first learnt about this inquiry committee constituted by the Executive Council in July 2017 only when members of the Academic Council received a letter inviting them to depose in front of the committee if they had anything to say about the “events leading to the disruption” of the 142nd Academic Council meeting held on 26 December 2016. The terms of reference of the said committee were not made public nor was it clear which service rules were invoked to constitute this committee.

After this general letter went out, Prof. Nivedita Menon received a letter from the Bidyut Chakrabarti Committee informing her that several AC members had deposed that she had disrupted the AC meeting. The letter to her also mentioned a video that the Committee was shown, which allegedly shows Prof Menon addressing students and teachers outside the Administrative Block.

No other faculty member has received a notice to appear before the Committee in this connection.

Although Prof. Menon was served a notice to appear before the Committee, she was denied her right to be made aware of the specific ‘complaints’ that were central to this inquiry. Further, she was not given a chance to understand the nature of the depositions supposedly received from some AC members alleging that she disrupted the AC meeting, and how they formed prima facie adequate and sufficient grounds for instituting an inquiry against her, nor has she been informed about the provenance of the video referred to.

It is a matter of public record that a complaint of sexual harassment was filed against Bidyut Chakrabarti by a woman working in a subordinate capacity at the Gandhi Bhavan in the University of Delhi. Professor Menon, who was at the time teaching in the Department of Political Science in Delhi University, had testified against Bidyut Chakrabarti. As a result of the report submitted by the Apex Committee of Delhi University, the University of Delhi had debarred Bidyut Chakravarti from all administrative posts in the University for three years. 

The JNU administration has exposed its own mala fide intentions by ignoring Prof. Menon’s repeated pleas to reconstitute the inquiry committee, given her legitimate apprehension of bias. Instead they have sent her repeated letters asking her to appear before the inquiry committee. We are deeply shocked that the JNU administration ignored the fact that the nomination of Prof. Chakrabarti as the chair of this inquiry against Prof. Menon is a violation of the principles of natural justice and the right to a fair procedure. Surely the JNU administration and its Executive Council should abide by the principles of a fair inquiry and ensure that such an enquiry should not be headed by someone who has grounds for bias.

This unethical and persistent harassment of an eminent scholar with an international reputation is yet another instance of the backlash being faced by feminists who stand up to sexism and sexual harassment in their professional spheres. It highlights the strategy adopted by people in positions of power, of trivialising sexual harassment and using their official positions to take revenge against women who have complained or testified against them.

We would like to stress that the very basis on which the JNU inquiry committee was formed is flawed and motivated and attacks the democratic and open functioning of a prestigious centre of higher education in India.

Further, we condemn the mala fide, motivated and baseless charges against Professor Nivedita Menon and the JNU administration’s attempts to target her and demand the immediate withdrawal of these charges and dissolution of the enquiry committee.

We further demand that Bidyut Chakravarti be debarred from any decision making on matters related to sexual harassment and/or GSCASH as an Executive Council member.

On 4 April 2007, a sexual harassment complaint was made by an employee of Gandhi Bhawan against the then Director, Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty, also faculty at the Department of Political Science, University of Delhi. The Delhi University apex committee on Sexual Harassment vide its report that was tabled and accepted by the Executive Council Resolution No 114 dated 8.10.07 resolved that:
1.     A letter of warning be issued to Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty.
2.     He should be asked to step down from the Directorship of Gandhi Bhawan.
3.     He should be debarred from holding any administrative post in the University for a period of three years.
Subsequently, Prof Chakrabarty was removed from the position of Director, Gandhi Bhawan, Head of the Department of Political Science and Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences.
Prof Chakrabarty petitioned to the High Court, Delhi, not on the merits of the complaint but his right to cross-examine the witness (WPC No 8227/2007 dated 29.5.09). The Supreme Court in its order dated 12.1.10 for Special Leave to Appeal directed that cross examination for witnesses be carried out though the ‘witnesses need not be revealed’ and appointed Ms Binu Tamta, the Court Commissioner for the purpose of getting ‘answers to questions’ to be supplied by the respondent Prof Chakrabarty. The statements recorded by the Court Commissioner were heard on 7.5.10 and it was decided that the same be handed over to the Apex Committee for further action and closed the matter.
The Apex Committee considered the court recordings and submitted its report to the EC. The report was finally tabled in the EC on 21.3.12 and Resolution 235 accepted the findings of the committee. ‘The Council further resolved that Prof Bidyut Chakrabarty, be debarred from all the administrative posts and supervisory duties in the University for the remainder period out of the 3 years, if any.’ The Assistant Registrar (CR & Vigilance) wrote to the Head of the Department, Political Science vide letter no. CR-Vigilance/069/2006/17 dated 23.5.12 to implement the above EC resolution.
Prof. Chakravarti had petitioned the Delhi High Court also to quash the ‘ordinance XV-D of Delhi University on the ground that it is violative of Article(s) 14, 16 and 311 of the Constitution’ (Prof. Bidyug Chakraborty vs Delhi University & Ors., W.P.(C) No.8226/2007, 29 May 2009 at para 2). Justice Sikri and Justice Jain of the Delhi High Court held that since they had ‘read the requirements of complying with fundamental principles of natural justice as implicit in the inquiry procedure’, there was no need to ‘strike down the relevant provisions of Ordinance XV-D of the University of Delhi’ (Prof. Bidyug Chakraborty vs Delhi University & Ors., W.P.(C) No.8226/2007, 29 May 2009 at para 19).
1.                 Abha Bhaiya, Jagori Rural, Himachal Pradesh
2.                 Achin Vanaik, Professor of Political Science Delhi University (retired), New Delhi
3.                 AIPWA (All India Progressive Women’s Association)
4.                 Dr Ajita Rao, Dalit feminist, New Delhi
5.                 Dr Albertina de JP Almeida, Advocate, Goa
6.                 Dr Alpana Neogy, Associate Professor of English (retd), Delhi University
7.                 Amrapali Basumatary, Assistant Professor Kirorimal College, Delhi University.
8.                 Amrita, researcher, New Delhi
9.                 Amritananda Chakravorty, Advocate, New Delhi 
10.              Anand Pawar, Pune
11.              Anannya Bhattacharjee, Garment and Allied Workers’ Union, New Delhi
12.              ANHAD, New Delhi
13.              Dr Anish Vanaik, O.P. Jindal Global University
14.              Dr Anupama Potluri, University of Hyderabad
15.              Anuradha Kapoor, Swayam, Kolkata
16.              Prof Anjali Monteiro, School of Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, Mumbai
17.              Annie Raja, President, National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW)
18.              Aruna Burte, feminist activist, Maharashtra
19.              Arundathi Viswanath, theatre activist, Himachal Pradesh
20.              Arundhati Dhuru, National Alliance of People’s Movements
21.              Audrey D’Mello, Majlis Legal Centre, Mumbai
22.              Prof Bittu Karthik Kondaiah, neurobiologist and activist, Ashoka University
23.              Carole Vance, PhD MPH, Yale University
24.              Debolina Dutta, Melbourne Law School
25.              Dr Geeta R, Department of Botany, Delhi University
26.              Dr. G.Vijay Assistant Professor School of Economics University of Hyderabad
27.              Prof Harjinder Singh, IIT Hyderabad
28.              Dr Karen Gabriel, Director Centre for Gender, Culture and Social Processes, Delhi University
29.              Dr Manisha Gupte, MASUM, Pune
30.              Dr Nandini Chandra, Asst Professor, Department of English, Delhi University
31.              Dr Nisha Biswas, scientist and activist, Kolkata
32.              Dyuti Ailawadi, feminist activist, Delhi
33.              Farah Naqvi, writer and activist, New Delhi
34.              Flavia Agnes, Majlis Legal Centre, Mumbai
35.              Dr Gabriele Dietrich, Pennurimai Iyakkam, Madurai
36.              Gayatri Nayar, TISS, Hyderabad
37.              Gloria Careaga, National Autonomous University of Mexico.
38.              Indira Chakravarthi, researcher, Pune
39.              Ishita Chaudhry, Ashoka Fellow, New Delhi
40.              Dr J Devika, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvanandapuram
41.              Jasmine George, independent researcher, Bangalore
42.              Jhuma Sen, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat
43.              Juhi Jain, feminist activist, New Delhi
44.              Kalyani Menon Sen, feminist activist, Gurgaon
45.              Kamayani Bali Mahabal, feminist and human rights activist, Mumbai
46.              Karuna Dietrich Wielenga, researcher, Chennai
47.              Kavita Krishnan, Secretary AIPWA
48.              Kiran Shaheen, memoirist and activist, New Delhi
49.              Prof KP Jayashankar, Dean, School of Media and Cutural Studies, TISS, Mumbai
50.              Lata Mani, independent scholar, Bangalore
51.              Manak Matiyani, YP Foundation, New Delhi
52.              Prof Manjari Katju, Department of Political Science, University of Hyderabad
53.              Mathew Jacob, Human Rghts Defenders Alert-India
54.              Meenakshi Puri, Dharamshala, Himachal Pradesh
55.              Meera Shiva, Public Health activist, Diverse Women for Diversity
56.              Nandini Rao, feminist activist, New Delhi
57.              Nandini Manjrekar, Mumbai
58.              Neha Dixit, independent journalist, Delhi
59.              Niti Saxena, feminist activist, Lucknow
60.              Niveditha Menon, researcher, Bangalore
61.              Oishik Sircar, Jindal Global Law School, Sonipat
62.              Ovais Sultan Khan, social activist, New Delhi
63.              Padma Velaskar, sociologist, Mumbai
64.              Prof Padmaja Shaw, School of Journalism, Osmania University, Hyderabad
65.              Pankaj Butalia, film-maker, New Delhi
66.              Pamela Philipose, journalist, New Delhi
67.              Pramada Menon, queer activist New Delhi
68.              Priya Pillai, activist, New Delhi
69.              Priya Pillai, social and environmental activist, New Delhi
70.              Prof A Mani, University of Calcutta
71.              Prof Anita Ghai, School of Human Studies, Ambedkar University, New Delhi
72.              Prof Bittu K, scientist and activist, New Delhi
73.              Prof Chaya Datar, feminist scholar, Mumbai
74.              Prof Janaki Abraham, Department of Sociology, Delhi University
75.              Prof Rachana Johri, Ambedkar University, Delhi
76.              Prof Rajni Palriwala, Delhi School of Economics, University of Delhi
77.              Prof Rosemary Dzuvichu, Nagaland University, Kohima
78.              Prof Sujata Patel, President, Indian Sociological Society, University of Hyderabad
79.              Prof Uma Chakravarti, feminist historian, New Delhi
80.              Rakhi Sehgal, trade unionist, New Delhi
81.              Renu Khanna, Sahaj, Vadodara
82.              Ridhima Mehra, Delhi
83.              Rimple Mehta, School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University, Kolkata
84.              Rituparna Borah, queer feminist activist, New Delhi
85.              Rochelle Pinto, independent researcher, Bangalore
86.              Rohini Sen, O.P. Jindal Global University
87.              Dr Sadhna Arya, Delhi University
88.              SAHELI Women’s Resource Centre, New Delhi
89.              S. Durga Bhavani, Associate Professor, School of Computer and Information Sciences, University of Hyderabad
90.              Sameena Dalwai, O.P. Jindal Global University
91.              Sangeeta Chatterji, doctoral candidate, Rutgers University
92.              Saptarshi Mandal, OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat
93.              Saumya Garima Jaipuriar, Kirorimal College, Delhi University
94.              Shabnam Hashmi, social activist, New Delhi
95.              Shahana Bhattacharya
96.              Shalini Gera, Advocate, Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh
97.              Sharanya Nayak, farmer and development consultant, Koraput, Orissa
98.              Sheba Chhachi, feminist artist, New Delhi
99.              Sheetal Sharma, activist, Guwahati
100.            Sherin BS. Assistant Professor, EFLU Hyderabad
101.            Dr Shilpa Phadke, School of Media and Cultural Studies, TISS, Mumbai
102.            Dr Shobha Rani, Associate Professor, University of Hyderabad
103.            Shraddha Chigateri, feminist researcher, Bangalore
104. Shruti Arora, YP Foundation, New Delhi
105. Shubha Chacko, social activist, Bangalore
106. Dr Soma Marik, Associate Professor of History, RKSM Vivekananda Vidyabhavan, Kolkata
107. Sonali Khan, feminist activist, New Delhi
108. Sumi Krishna, former President, Indian Association for Women’s Studies, Bangalore
109. Suneeta Dhar, activist, New Delhi
110. Susie Tharu, feminist scholar, Hyderabad
111. Urvashi Butalia, feminist writer, Zubaan, New Delhi
112. Usha Raman, media scholar and writer, Hyderabad
113. Vandana Mahajan, feminist activist, Bangalore
114. Vani Subramanian, Saheli
115. Veena Mani, doctoral candidate, IIT Madras
116. Vineeta Bal, scientist, IISER, Pune
117. Vinita Sahasranaman, feminist activist, New Delhi
118. Vrinda Marwah, doctoral candidate, University of Texas (Austin)
119. Women Against Sexual Violence and State Repression, New Delhi



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