HEADLINES:
June 20 2019
Governor wants Santhanam panel report made public
22 November 2018

The former IAS officer had probed the Nirmala Devi issue

Governor Banwarilal Purohit, in his capacity as the Chancellor of Madurai Kamaraj University, the State government and the Crime Branch-Criminal Investigation Department (CB-CID) have made a joint appeal to the Madras High Court to lift the interim ban on making public former IAS officer R. Santhanam’s report on the Nirmala Devi issue.

Appearing before a Division Bench of Justices M. Sathyanarayanan and N. Seshasayee, Advocate General Vijay Narayan representing the State government as well as the CB-CID and Additional Advocate General P.H. Arvindh Pandian representing the Chancellor urged the court to vacate an interim order passed by it on May 10.

A Division Bench of Justices V. Parthiban and P.D. Audikesavalu had ordered that the report, on allegations that a woman faculty of a private college in Virudhunagar district had approached students seeking sexual favours for unnamed influential men, be kept in a sealed cover and not made public until further orders.

Chancellor’s power

The interim order was passed on a public interest litigation petition filed by D. Ganesan, co-ordinator of Revolutionary Students Youth Front - Tamil Nadu, who had questioned the authority of the Chancellor to order an inquiry by a former IAS officer when the criminal law had been set in motion and the CB-CID had begun probing into the issue.

However, it was made clear by the university that the inquiry was actually ordered by the Vice-Chancellor of the university, with the prior approval of the Chancellor, as contemplated under Section 12(4) (a) of the Madurai Kamaraj University Act of 1965 and therefore there was no irregularity in its constitution.

Urging the court to vacate the interim order, the A-G told the Bench that the “interim order is causing some difficulties. There is no reason why the report should continue to be kept in a sealed cover.” Agreeing that the issue in question was related to a very serious incident, he said, criminal prosecution had been launched to punish the accused.

The AAG said the former IAS officer’s report had nothing to do with criminal action being taken by the State. He said the report was aimed at only assisting the Chancellor to find out ways and means to strengthen the internal mechanism in State universities to address charges of sexual harassment and similar issues.

The judges said they shall take a call on vacating the interim order on Monday since the petitioner’s counsel-on-record Jimraj Milton sought time for the appearance of his senior Balan Haridoss. In the meantime, the judges wanted to test the bona fides of the petitioner’s organisation and ordered submission of the list of office-bearers.

Petitioner questioned

Since the petitioner’s main plea was to transfer the investigation from CB-CID to a special investigation team led by a gender sensitive police officer not below the rank of Deputy Inspector General (DIG) of Police, the judges wondered what were the criteria for determining a particular officer to be gender-sensitive and the other to be insensitive.

Disapproving of the practice of some organisations being cynical and concentrating only on finding faults, rather than providing solutions, just to gain publicity, the judges ordered the petitioner to disclose by Monday as to what action he had taken against media organisations which had disclosed the identity of students involved in the issue.

 

 

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