DADU: An associate professor of Sindh Univer­sity was sent on forced leave on Monday for an indefinite period after the administration of SU’s Dadu campus received complaints of harassment of woman students against him. The professor was transferred to the Dadu campus amid an inquiry instituted by the university against him on the same complaint lodged by some women students studying on the main campus in Jamshoro.

The professor has challenged the SU’s move of sending him on forced leave in the Sindh High Court. He maintained that he was not given a chance to defend himself before such a decision was taken.

The first complaint of sexual harassment against the professor was lodged in June and an inquiry was instituted on June 7 by the SU main campus administration.

Varsity action challenged in high court

The case was referred to the anti-harassment committee, formed in the wake of the infamous Naila Rind murder case, but the committee members were yet to reach a conclusion. In the meantime, according to sources in SU, more complaints were lodged against him by students of the main campus. Ultimately, the professor was transferred to the Dadu campus, pending a decision by the committee. However, similar complaints were lodged by some students of the Dadu campus prompting the university administration to send him on forced leave for an indefinite period.

On his part, the professor said the allegations were baseless. He said he was not being given a chance to clarify his position. After action taken by the university against him for a second time, the professor moved the Sindh High Court through his counsel to challenge the SU actions.

Speaking to local reporters on Monday, the professor said that the university’s move to send him on forced leave was unlawful. He said he had never been given a hearing.

He said his absence from the campus was bound to affect the studies of certain MPhil and PhD students who needed his mandatory supervision. He said he had prayed to court to order cancellation of SU’s forced leave order and restoration of his normal attendance and status.

SU Jamshoro campus registrar Sajid Memon, when approached by local journalists, explained that the professor had been facing charges of sexual harassment at the main campus and considering unrest among women students in this regard, he was transferred to the Dadu campus. However, he said, such complaints against him were also registered at that campus and the administration had to send him on forced leave.

In reply to a question, the registrar said that the anti-harassment committee that was hearing the earlier complaints against the professor was abolished recently. With the permission of the SU syndicate, a new committee has been formed.

He said the professor was summoned by the committee asking him to clarify his position but he did not turn up. Instead, he said, the professor challenged the SU move in the high court. He said the administration would submit its reply as and when the court sought such a response.

Replying to another question, the registrar said that the professor in question had appeared before three inquiry committees [not the anti-harassment committees] and narrated his version regarding the allegations against him. He said that the professor had in June sought a copy of the complaint lodged against him during that month. The copy was provided to him towards the end of November, he added.

Meanwhile, sources at SU said that the university administration was yet to submit its report on progress of the cases of harassment at its campuses as was required by Supreme Court’s human rights cell. The administration was supposed to submit the report by Nov 19 but its counsel had sought some time stating that some fresh inquiries were yet to be completed.

It may be pertinent here to recall that two teachers of the university had earlier faced the same charges and both of them emerged clear in the investigations against them.

Published in Dawn, December 12th, 2017