Two days ago, Delhi High Court exonerated a 75-year-old former Delhi University Professor of a sexual harassment charge 16 years after it was filed against him by two researchers. Professor Satya Pal Narang was also the former head of the Sanskrit Department in 2002 when he was suspended by Delhi University’s Executive Council in a hasty and irresponsible manner, just two years before his retirement. This impetuous and delinquent decision came by the DU’s enquiry committee in March 2002 at a time when there were no rules framed by the university for probing into averments of sexual harassment. Through his counsel, Prof. Narang asserted that the enquiry committee constituted by the Vice Chancellor failed to follow the due process of law when it neither permitted him to explain his charges nor a charge sheet was filed against him and a heedless decision was passed by the Council.
Justice V Kameshwar Rao upheld that the professor must be given all his retirement benefits and ordered the University to clear all his arrears and proclaimed that Narang moved the Court only to obliterate the stigma that was attached to his character and not for any monetary relief. The Court also quashed the University of Delhi’s demand for the matter being reverted to the Council for a fresh hearing as the panel neglected the professor’s right to cross- examine the researchers and failed to provide a copy of the enquiry report. Also, the Court observed that the witnesses, petitioner and the researchers have aged equally and brought this matter to the forefront again would be an embarrassment of all the parties now which is a valid claim.
But, what was the point?
The professor had to go through 16 years of stigmatisation and humiliation and has faced enough injustice throughout all these years. Such matters bring us to the crucial and harrowing questions of vacancies of judges’ posts in Courts, delayed justice, false sexual harassment claims and the recent and larger debate on the Supreme Court order claiming that the law on cruelty against women being misused based on NCRB(National Crime Records Bureau) data. Instead of emasculating the law to contain violence in the family under Section498A of the Indian Penal Code believing that ‘all’ victims make erroneous claims and innocent men are jailed or defamed, we need to look into the proper functioning of law and the courts and ensure availability of justice to both the accused and the victims. Though this case did not occur within the family, it brings us to the larger question of striking a balance within the principle of fairness. This leads us to conclude firstly, that the law should continue to tilt in the favour of wronged women as a progressive intervention, without unjustly wronging men.
This late judgement and the reckless management by the Executive Council also leads us to the second conclusion that justice delayed is justice denied and the 16 years of trauma and stigma could not be easily revoked.
Feature Image Credits: justiceinschools.org