A 10-mark question in the 4th-semester examination Delhi University's Chemistry department sparked protests on Tuesday, after it asked the examinees to write a note on the presentations they had made for their internal assessment papers.
The students alleged that since each student was given different topics for their internal assessment exams and answering it would indirectly help in identifying the students who were protesting against Ramesh Chandra, the Head of Chemistry Department, who has been named in sexual harassment cases.
Chandra, who faced an enquiry by the Internal Complaints Committee, has been accused of sexually harassing his student and another colleague. A group of 118 students had written a letter requesting Dean of Examinations to bar Chandra from evaluating their exam papers. Interestingly, Chandra still remains to be in office despite such grave charges levelled against him.
Commenting on the issue, Prashant Mukherjee, Delhi Secretary of Students Federation, said that the continuance of Chandra in his office, amidst grave charges, is a mockery of natural justice. It will also allow him to threaten students to withdraw the cases.
"We have witnessed the power nexus in play when such cases emerge. The internal complaints committees are part of the administration. When there are allegations against any member of the administration, the nexus ensures that investigation does not lead to any persecution," said Mukherjee.
The teachers emphasised that Chandra should have been asked to step aside temporarily, till the inquiry is conducted. Abha Habib, the former Executive Council member, said, “In Sciences, the lab culture ensures most of the students do not stand up to charges because they are dependent on their teachers for marks.”
"Delhi University Teacher Union has written to the Vice-Chancellor to strengthen the mechanism to address the cases of sexual harassment. The number of female students has gone up in the university and lack of mechanism affects them severely," she added.
Responding to the questions sent by Newsclick, Chandra denied allegations. He said, "The allegations were false. None of the students has made any allegations. The allegations are untrue and are fabricated stories by one of our senior lady Professors. Students have denied making any such complaints."
Dubious record of redressing sexual harassment cases
Female students and faculty members at Delhi University have continuously flooded the internal complaints committee with charges of sexual harassment. But the committees' inability to address the cases has compelled the complainants to approach the police.
"The committee, in most departments, does not have elected student members. It is also a violation of Vishakha guidelines," said Prashant Mukherjee.
"The charges are quite old. They should have been completed in time," added Habib.
Senior faculty members suggest that the inquiry must be time-bound. It ensures that the complainant gets justice and the accused if complaints committee finds him not guilty, rejoins the academics soon.