HC Stays Relief Order for Prof Giridhar Madras in Sexual Harassment Case

Giridhar Madras's forced retirement had been set aside by a single-judge bench that found the institute's inquiry committee hadn't followed procedures.

New Delhi: A division bench of the Karnataka high court on December 6 set aside a single-judge bench’s order granting relief to IISc professor Giridhar Madras, who was forced to retire by the institute after it investigated him for sexual harassment.

The division bench of Justices Ravi Malimath and M. Nagaprasanna was hearing an appeal filed by IISc against a single-bench order dated August 6, 2019According to the New Indian Express, the division bench also stayed the single-judge bench’s direction to initiate action against members of the institute’s inquiry committee and the IISc Director. Madras was reinstated following the single-judge bench’s order.

Madras is a professor in the IISc’s department of chemical engineering and had been associated with the institute since 1998. He has received several honours, including the  Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award in 2009. He also received the J.C. Bose National Fellowship.

Justice B.P. Bajanthri, hearing a plea filed by the professor, quashed the committee’s report, submitted in February 2018, and the institute’s order on October 17, 2018, forcing him to retire after investigating the allegation of sexual harassment levelled against him by a student.

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The single-judge bench held that several errors had been committed by the IISc while dealing with the case against. The court said procedures under the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and the Central Civil Services Rules like providing a copy of the complaint to the professor within the prescribed period, constituting the inquiry committee according to the rules and following the process for conducting the inquiry and submitting the report were not followed by IISc.

The IISc filed an appeal contending that the single-bench judge “erred in setting aside the report and findings of the committee as well as the punishment imposed by the disciplinary authority”, and that this was a “violation of the principles of natural justice and a miscarriage of justice”, according to the New Indian Express.

“The findings were recorded after giving sufficient opportunity to the accused professor (to clarify himself). Also punishment of compulsory retirement was imposed and granting 75% pensionary benefits, after taking into account the seriousness of the charges. Therefore, the single judge ought not to have interfered with the inquiry or its findings,” the IISc’s appeal said.