14 Sep 2023 7:30 AM GMT
The Madras High Court on Thursday asked the Kalakshetra Foundation to ensure that the faculty member who has been alleged of sexually harassing students in the foundation not be permitted inside the campus. Justice N Seshasayee was hearing the pleas filed by a group of students from Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts, functioning under Kalakshetra Foundation, seeking to formulate...
The Madras High Court on Thursday asked the Kalakshetra Foundation to ensure that the faculty member who has been alleged of sexually harassing students in the foundation not be permitted inside the campus.
Justice N Seshasayee was hearing the pleas filed by a group of students from Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts, functioning under Kalakshetra Foundation, seeking to formulate proper safety policies and redressal mechanisms in the college. The students also prayed for reconstituting the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) with student and parent representatives.
In December 2022, one the former Directors of the foundation had made a Facebook post accusing a male teacher of molesting and threatening the students. This led to many other students coming forward with similar instances of sexual harassment.
The court had previously directed the institute to restrain the suspended faculty from entering its premises, contacting the students or interfering with the administration of the institute. The court had also directed the Foundation to frame a policy against sexual harassment and to constitute a Complaints Committee with respect to its schools, both under the CBSE and the State Board.
When the matter was taken up on Thursday, Senior Counsel R Vaigai, appearing along with Advocate Anna Mathew on behalf of the students informed the court that in spite of court orders, the accused had been visiting the Institution. She added that the suspended faculty member had been visiting the Institution under the pretext of dropping his wife (who was also a teacher at the institute) and had even participated in the Onam celebration that was held on campus on September 10.
To this, the court said that it was the duty of the institute to ensure that the accused faculty member is not permitted inside the campus and a failure of the same would amount to contempt of court.
“It is your (Institution’s) duty to make sure that he (suspended faculty) does not enter the institution. If not, it’ll invite contempt. You are not sending the right message,” the court said.
Vaigai also informed the court that the Institute had been victimizing the students and those who came out in support of the students. It was further claimed that those in contact with the perpetrator were being given faculty positions. She added that the institute was committing aggravated assault and hostility towards the students and they were being victimized for being a catalyst.
“All of them are being victimised. Those who supported the students have been weeded out of the institution. People supporting the perpetrator are given faculty positions. There’s a pattern adopted by the institution which is trying to send a message saying that if you support the perpetrator, you’ll get positions and if you go against the perpetrator, you’ll be out of the Institution. I have no objection for people being friends with the perpetrator, but if a friendship with the perpetrator is a pre-requisite for faculty positions, it gives out a serious message,” Vaigai argued.
Vaigai also informed the court that the students had some reservations about the policies that were presently framed by the foundation.
To this, Additional Solicitor General ARL Sundareshan informed the court that the foundation was always open to fine-tuning the policies and ensured that necessary action would be taken based on complaints received from the students.
The court also directed the ASG to inform whether the Foundation would be able to include parent representatives also in the ICC and asked the counsel to get instructions on the same.
Case Title: XYZ – 1 and 6 Others v. Kalakshetra Foundation and Others
Case No: WP 11764 of 2023