A letter dated 12th September, 2017 by the Registrar wreaked havoc in JNU for gender justice as it declared that elections to the University’s Gender Sensitization Committee Against Sexual Harassment (GSCASH) were to be put on hold and that a new committee called Internal Complaints committee (ICC) were to take its place. This came immediately after the JNUSU elections where gender justice was a major issue, this year.
A major difference the reconstituting of GSCASH to ICC would cause is the sad fate of representation.
The GSCASH committee constitutes four faculty members (at least two women), four students (at least two women), a woman officer and a woman staff member to be elected by teachers, students and staff. It also had provision for two women representatives of an NGO along with one women coordinator for counselors.
On the other hand the new ICC’s composition according to UGC’s rule is this: three nominated faculty, two nominated non-teaching staff, and three elected student representatives (one undergraduate, one postgraduate, one research scholar).
The Garkoti committee formed to decide upon the composition of the ICC constituted two women (on a nine member committee) as its members only. In addition to it, this committee is not even autonomous as the majority of its members held administrative posts. Also to note that no representations were asked from various stakeholders like the student body, teaching and non-teaching staff.
The cause for this major conversion comes on the pretext of a clause in the UGC-SHW Regulations, s. 2(1), which states that “any existing body already functioning with the same objective should be re-constituted as the ICC”, provided that in the “latter case the HEI shall ensure that the Constitution of such a body is required for ICC under these regulations, provided that such a body shall be bound by the provisions of these regulations”, which necessarily means that JNU has its own ICC under the name of GSCASH. Ironically a letter dated October 6th,2015 by the Assistant Registrar stated that the rules of GSCASH have been revised according to the UGC-SHW Act,2013.
‘The only amendment that should have been recommended is a rechristening of GSCASH as the GSCASH-ICC, if this pedantic obsession with reproducing the nomenclature used in the UGC-SHW Regulations has to be humoured’, statement by the JNUTA on jnuta.wordpress.com.
The second major concern that looms over the abolition of GSCASH is the lack of autonomy. While the VC is not to be a member of the ICC directly, yet he can exert a major influence in the appointment of teaching and non teaching staff which are to be nominated directly. This would further create power hierarchies within the committee hence hampering its working. Another troubling question is the fate of inquiries in which the accused is a member of the administration, it would definitely affect the impartial functioning of the body.
‘GSCASH is much more democratic and representative than ICC. An ICC which has nominated members by the executive authority, which is the administration is in contradiction with the principle of natural justice, as it either prevents cases of sexual harassment against people in position of power from getting reported or it makes those cases go to people who are effectively allies of those who are the executive authorities.
In this scenario, how does the ICC ensure free and fair procedure ?? It can not. It is a smart move by the administration to replace GSCASH with ICC to safeguard all their people against whom sexual harassment inquiries were going on’,Somaya Gupta, JNU Student.
This idea of having a spineless ICC has been protested by many including the JNUSU, JNUTA, and the students alike. But the administration is hell -bent on their stand for ICC and have thus dissolved GSCASH wef from September 18th. In a shocking move they also sealed the office of GSCASH and took over the working of GSCASH much to the disappointment and anger of the students and the teachers.
All India Progressive Women’s Association in their strong worded statement on September 18th condemned the state of affairs in JNU. ‘JNU’s GSCASH was among the rare model institutions where the institution was actually autonomous and free to carry out tasks of gender sensitization and enquiries into complaints free from any pressure, regardless of whether the accused was a student, a faculty member, a staff member or employee, or someone in the Administrative hierarchy’, AIPWA.
JNU students’, teachers’ and various organizations are still putting up a relentless fight against the diktat of the administration to preserve GSCASH which is far more efficient than the ICC. JNU being one of India’s finest institutions took a major step backward in delivering gender justice to its students, teaching and non –teaching staff. According to the recent developments the JNU teachers’ and students’ associations have moved to court to oppose this bizarre decision. We just hope that the court recognizes the loopholes in the ICC and give back GSCASH to JNU.
About our writer:English major, proud feminist and an awkward introvert who likes to day dream and gaze into nothingness all day. Smashing gender stereotypes is her favorite task.