On the 6th of November, 2013, Ms. Stella James, one of our former students wrote a blog post highlighting the conflicting range of emotions that she underwent in the aftermath of sexual harassment at the hands of a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. Subsequent to this, the Chief Justice of India constituted a Committee (SCC) to look into the charges leveled by her. SCC found that Stella’s statements “prima facie discloses an act of unwelcome behaviour (unwelcome verbal/non-verbal conduct of sexual nature)”. After this, key portions from Stella’s affidavit outlining the horrific incident was disclosed to a newspaper by a high ranking law officer of the country. Further, press reports indicate that the Attorney General of India has opined to the Union Home Ministry that “[…] [it] is a fit case for action and there is enough evidence to proceed against the former Supreme Court judge”.
Considering the nature of allegations, and noting that Stella was a student, and the former judge was an honorary professor of NUJS at the time of incident, we feel that the latter’s continued association with our institution undermines the ideals of NUJS, an institution that has always strived to teach and foster justice, including gender justice. We believe that the position of a Professor is that of trust, and requires that such person be above reproach, especially above allegations of misbehaviour with students, particularly when such allegations have been found to have prima facie merit by a high level committee. Given that the former judge continues to remain an honorary professor at NUJS, we request the NUJS administration to take immediate steps to see to it that necessary action is initiated against the former judge.
We acknowledge the position taken by the Vice Chancellor, as reported in the media, about placing the matter of institution’s continued association with the former judge in the next Executive Council meeting. However in light of the findings of SCC and Supreme Court’s direction in Vishaka requiring the employer to take steps affirmatively, we call upon the NUJS administration including the Executive Council, the body responsible for appointments, to appropriately address this matter with utmost urgency. Till he is exonerated from all the charges leveled by Stella, the University should, at the very least, dissociate itself from him. We must clarify here that we respect the right of the former judge and all other parties to pursue appropriate legal remedies and defend themselves as per due process of law.
We also note with concern the unwarranted statements from several quarters attributing political motives to Stella’s blog posts and deposition. We are particularly appalled at the insinuation by the retired judge that Stella is a political pawn and strongly condemn this character assassination. We also condemn all other statements that attempt to politicize the issue. Such statements are deeply disrespectful to Stella and trivialize her experience. These insinuations are also symptomatic of the manner in which issues of gender and power are turned into partisan political contests and we call upon all to resist such attempts.
1. Shamnad Basheer, MHRD Chaired Professor of IP Law, NUJS
2. Saurabh Bhattacharjee, Assistant Professor, NUJS
3. Anirban Chakraborty, Assistant Professor, NUJS [On Leave]
4. Lovely Dasgupta, Assistant Professor, NUJS
5. Ruchira Goswami, Assistant Professor, NUJS
6. Daniel Mathew, Assistant Professor, NUJS
7. Nandan Nawn, Assistant Professor, NUJS
8. Arup Kumar Poddar, Associate Professor, NUJS
9. Tilottama Raychaudhuri, Assistant Professor, NUJS
10. Shameek Sen, Assistant Professor, NUJS
11. N.S. Sreenivasulu, Associate Professor, NUJS
12. TVGNS Sudhakar, Associate Professor, NUJS
(Note: This blog is publishing this post in connection with Stella’s original post, which can be found here)