A professor at the premier Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) has been suspended on charges of sexually harassing a research scholar while on a recent official tour of Europe.
B Ramamoorthi of the mechanical engineering department was suspended a few weeks after a hearing by the IIT’s nine-member committee on sexual harassment found that he had behaved in “an improper manner, displaying what may be referred to as mala fide intentions towards a student who trusted him”, according to a report in The Times of India newspaper on Wednesday.
The professor taught at the IIT in the southern Indian city of Chennai (earlier called Madras). The IITs, India’s most sought-after technological institutes, are located in 16 cities in the country. The Chennai branch is among the oldest of these.
The suspension of the professor comes at a time when India is already reeling under the news of imprisonment of a top journalist Tarun Tejpal and the indictment of a senior ex-judge AK Ganguly on similar charges of sexual assault and harassment.
The Times report quoting the complaint of the research scholar said she had gone to Poland along with the professor in September this year for a science conference. He allegedly asked the girl to sleep in the same room as his as she did not have enough money to book her own room, the report said.
The girl alleged that he tried to force himself on her at night in the room, after which she left.
The professor told the enquiry committee that he had invited the scholar to stay in his room with the full knowledge of her mother and sister as she was short of money.
Ramamoorthi reportedly told the committee that he was also concerned for her safety in that foreign country. But once she had left the room, he did not try to locate her, the report said, quoting the proceedings of the inquiry.
The scholar’s friends told the committee that she was suffering from severe depression and loss of weight from the time she returned from the conference, the report said.
Ramamoorthi did not make himself accessible to the media for his comments, said media reports.
Reports quoting the registrar of IIT-Madras said that as per section 16 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, details regarding complaints of sexual harassment could not be revealed.
“IIT-Madras, however, would like to place on record that action is always taken up immediately on any such complaint and justice is secured for the aggrieved persons following due processes of law,” the senior IIT official was quoted as having said.
Since the gang-rape in Delhi on December 16 last year, sweeping reforms in law have been enacted relating to rape and sexual harassment, plugging loopholes and setting a water-tight process for investigating complaints.