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Notices issued to KP governor, teacher in student harassment case

Bureau Report 2022-06-27
PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench has put on notice Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor and a teacher of Islamia College University Peshawar, challenging an order of the former to award minor penalty to the latter by setting aside the major penalty of removal from service by the anti-harassment ombudsperson in a case of harassing a female student.A two-member bench consisting of Justice Lal Jan Khattak and Justice Mohammad Ibrahim Khan issued the notices after preliminary hearing of the petition, filed by a female student.

The court directed the respondents including the governor, a professor of the political science department of ICU and registrar of the university to respond to the petition on next date.

The petitioner has requested the court to declare as illegal and arbitrary the impugned order of the governor of January 4, 2022, and consequently setit aside.She has prayed to restore the order passed by the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa ombudsperson for protection against harassment of April12, 2021, imposing the major penalty of removal from service of the delinquent teacher and to direct the university authorities to implement the order.

Advocate Sangeen Khan appeared for the petitioner and stated that his client was a student of political science department at ICU.

He stated that the petitioner was subjected to sexual harassment by the teacher on November 5, 2020 and was thus constrained to move an application to the university administration for taking action against him.

He said that during the inquiry proceedings, the respondent university instead of conducting thorough probe ganged up its faculty members by way of issuing statementsdeclaring the incident as concocted one.

He stated that a resolution was also passed by the general body of Islamia College Teaching Staff Association in support ofthe teacher.

The counsel said that the inquiry committee had resorted to victim blaming due to which the petitioner approached the ombudsperson through a complaint.

Mr Sangeen stated that the ombudsperson took cognisance of the case on November 24, 2020, and also summoned the members of the inquiry committee.

He said that the ombudsperson also restrained the inquiry committee from further proceedings in the matter and assumed jurisdiction toentertain the complaint under section 8 (1) of the Protection Against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010.

He stated that despite the restraining order, the committee issued its report on December 7, 2020, declaring the complaint to be false and vexatious and also recommended penal action against the petitioner and those, who appeared as witnesses in the case.

He state d that on April 12, 2021, the ombudsperson passed an order whereby the offence of sexual harassment was held to be proved against the teacher and recommended his removal from service.

He stated that the respondent preferred an appealbefore the governor.He claimed that on October 4, 2021, the governor summoned the petitioner and her parents and pressurised them to patch up the matter, however, the petitioner and her parents refused.

He said that the governor accepted the appeal and converted the major penalty into a minor penalty of censuring the appellant. He added that the impugned order was kept secret and the petitioner had to move from pillar to post to get a copy of the impugned order.

The counsel contended while passing the impugned order, the material and factual position had not been discussed and the order had been passed in arbitrary manner for patently malafide considerations.