The Uttarakhand High Court on Thursday directed the Centre to appoint a regular Director to the National Institute for Visually Handicapped within three weeks.
The Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Rajiv Sharma and Justice Manoj Kumar Tiwari also banned newspaper reporters from publishing any oral observations made during submissions or interactive sessions. Additionally, it warned them against publishing any news-item without verifying its contents as per orders passed by the court.
The court has taken cognizance of a news report concerning the protests by the students of NIVH against molestation and sexual abuse by teachers and staff members of the institution.
Taking note of the allegations, the bench observed, “It could never be imagined in any civilized society that teachers themselves would be involved in sexual harassment and abuse. It is a black spot on the entire teachers’ community. Teachers and staff of an institution are torch-bearers for the specially challenged children. The children may be blind; but, they are required to be shown the light by the teachers and the ministerial staff.”
In order to “stem the rot”, the court had issued mandatory directions on August 29, inter alia ordering the Centre to appoint a regular Director within a period of three weeks, and also directing the State to hold an inquiry into the affairs of NIVH on an urgent basis.
Consequent to this direction, Mr. D. Senthil Pandian, Secretary, Agriculture, State of Uttarakhand had submitted a comprehensive report to the court. This report was directed to be furnished to the parties within two days for them to do the needful and to file action taken reports on or before October 25, that is the next date of hearing.
Appointment of a regular director
The court noted that despite its orders, a regular Director for the institution had not been appointed so far and that one Dr. Geetika Mathur has been appointed as the Officiating Director.
On being questioned, Asst. Solicitor General Mr. Rakesh Thapliyal submitted that the earlier incumbent, Mrs. Anuradha Dalmia is holding the lien on the present post. This, he said, was because she would retire at the age of 60 years and, till then, no regular Director can be appointed. He, along with Senior Counsel Arvind Vashistha appearing for the institution, had submitted that there is no tenure prescribed for the post of Director. This was supported by Mr. Surendra Dhalwal, Asst. Professor, Clinical Psychology.
The court, however, noted that the report submitted by Mr. Pandian states that the Director is to hold the post for a period of 5 years, despite which, Mrs. Dalmia was permitted to work for 12 years.
Scorning at the attempt to mislead it, the court then observed, “Sri Surendra Dhalwal has told a lie in the open Court. It was never expected from a person holding the rank of Asst. Professor not to narrate and state correct facts to the Court. This action of Mr. Surendra Dhalwal, Asst. Professor, is condemnable. Moreover, learned Advocates appearing on behalf of respondent Nos. 1 & 6 have also not stated correct facts. They have twisted the facts. We do not know why this strange stand has been taken by respondent Nos. 1 & 6 contrary to law.”
It therefore issued show-cause notice to Mr. Dhalwal as to why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against him for “repeatedly misleading this Court and for concealing true facts from the Court”.
The court also sought to know the reason for permitting Mrs. Dalmia to continue holding the position of the head of the institution for 12 long years.