Sunday, 11 February 2018

Top Indian scientist reportedly dismissed after his research institute upheld charges of sexual harassment against him by junior colleague; Scientist to go to court to challenge it

Today's (11th Feb. 2018) The Hindu newspaper carried this article on its front page: Scientist dismissed for sexual harassment of colleague, http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/scientist-dismissed-for-sexual-harassment-of-colleague/article22716197.ece, 10th Feb. 2018.

It says that a junior woman staffer alleged sexual harassment by this 59 years old top scientist who seems to have held a powerful administrative position (head of a scientific lab). The allegations included an incident of alleged sexual molestation in March 2015 in a hotel room. That was in the context of an academic conference they were attending.

The charges were investigated by a committee constituted by the research institute. The article quotes the executive director of the institute as saying (slightly edited), "The governing board has ratified the decision to terminate --Name-snipped--’s services".."It is his decision whether he wants to further pursue the matter in court. From our side, the process has been completed." [I decided not to name the top Indian scientist in this post as I do not want to contribute to Google search results on his name showing up the matter via this post.]

The top scientist (who was dismissed) told The Hindu that he would "contest the decision in court".

Hmm. How good will scientists be as investigators and judges of a charge of sexual harassment! I have a very poor opinion of the Sathya Dharma (truth and ethics) standards of Indian scientists and academics. I have personally experienced Asathya-Adharma (untruthful and unethical) crook Indian academic administrators some of whom are Professors of science and so are scientists.

Through my own experience and through following mainstream media reports about Indian academia for some years, I have found that most Indian academics and scientists are very poor in knowledge about current day professional techniques and standards in managing staff and administering staff. They are trained mainly in academic research and teaching due to which most of them are UTTER NOVICES in management and administration. Many of them indulge in favouritism, nasty revenge, and sometimes poisonous behaviour towards juniors and sometimes even peers that they don't like including those that refuse to become obedient sycophants (yes-men) to them. Many Indian academic and scientific administrators are known to have indulged in even record-tampering, malicious defamation and identity-theft which are criminal offences under the Indian Penal Code. It is a crazy environment with significant amount of nasty abuse of power and sometimes money corruption and sexual favour related ethical corruption. Of course, there are good people too but somehow Indian academic administration posts seem to be such that even good people become ethically corrupt once they occupy administrative power posts.

I have zero faith in the ability of Indian academic or scientific committees to fairly judge a very serious, career-threatening and reputation-threatening matter like a sexual harassment charge. They may very well use the opportunity to ***fix*** a colleague of whom they have become jealous or have some other issue with, and unfairly judge him guilty which leads to a career-threatening and reputation-threatening outcome for the colleague. And similarly they may unfairly judge a colleague whom they support for some reasons like fear of that colleague's power to hurt them and monetary corruption reasons, as innocent of such sexual harassment charges even if the charges have strong evidence to back them!

I think it should be the court of law in India or suitable bodies appointed by the court which have people trained in Indian jurisprudence (lawyers and judges) who investigate and examine such sexual harassment charges in Indian academic and scientific institutions. If it is a court of law then judicial process would be followed and so any injustice concerns would be similar to how it is for any other court case.

But the court process in India may take years to arrive at a judgement. The concerned academic or scientific institution would want a quicker interim decision. The court could appoint suitable bodies as mentioned above staffed with persons trained in Indian jurisprudence. That body should produce a document on the lines of a judgement document though not as exhaustive as a regular court's judgement document, which explains the evidence and eyewitness testimony that is examined and how the conclusion of prima facie (at first view) guilt of sexual harassment or no such prima facie guilt, is arrived at. Based on this document's view which would have the stamp of people trained in Indian jurisprudence backing it, action or no action could be taken against the accused academic or scientist by the academic/scientific institution.

Of course, both the accuser and the accused would have the liberty of challenging the prima facie guilt/innocence decision, in a regular court of law. Note that some cases of sexual harassment like physical sexual molestation seems to be a criminal offence in India meaning that if the accused (top Indian scientist in this case) is proved guilty, he, in all probability, would have to serve a jail sentence. I mean, he would become a convicted criminal!

While I have not followed such cases in detail in the past, it seems to me that if the top scientist in this case who has been dismissed from employment by the Indian scientific institute, goes to an Indian court of law, seeking suspension of dismissal pending a proper court of law deciding his guilt/innocence in this matter, the Indian court of law may suspend the dismissal and the Indian scientific institute will have to put him back on the rolls! However, if the top scientist really did indulge in sexual harassment then he would fear going to court as the court would in all probability order the sexual harassment case to be heard in a trial criminal court. This court's wheels of justice may grind slowly but steadily and may eventually deliver a guilty verdict if the hearing produces strong evidence and/or strong eyewitness testimony supporting the sexual harassment/molestation charge. That would mean the top Indian scientist may go to jail as a convicted criminal!

Hmm. What a terrible dilemma to be in! Recently I informed an Indian Professor of Computer Science (male) about such matters becoming a great issue in India nowadays and advised him to ensure that he is never alone in a room/cabin with a female colleague or female student. Even a false complaint made by a female colleague or female student who is angry with him for some academic grade/examination result related matter could be enough to land the Indian Professor into unnecessary trouble! Further, the female colleague or female student can simply threaten to make the complaint if they had been together in some room without anybody else, to ensure that the Professor does their bidding (say, passes a female student in her Ph.D. examination).

I am not letting my imagination run riot. Indian academic system is rotten now with so many reports of police cases being filed against Indian academic administrators. This is the reality of Indian academic system today. There are lots of bad people in Indian academic administration and so the good people in Indian academia have to be very careful not to get trapped by these bad people using false charges or false statements.

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