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NUJS prof Basheer backs intern, calls for college to protect students from sexual harassment in ‘academic engagements’

NUJS professor Shamnad Basheer has called for the administration to launch an investigation to protect interns from such cases in future.

Basheer, who is the Ministry of Human Resource Development chaired professor in intellectual property (IP) law, wrote in a Facebook post: “I’m urging the NUJS administration to investigate this immediately, since this was committed during the course of an ‘academic’ engagement and the judge was provided with research assistance by the University.”

He also defended why the graduate, who was first interviewed by Legally India about the allegation yesterday, did not identify the judge by name:

“in the last year alone, I’ve been privy to 3 different instances of sexual harassment and what the women went through….very often at the hands of their bosses or someone in a position of power over them.

Those of us who've had the luxury of being untouched by this phenomenon cannot even begin to fathom the trauma that such incidents unleash. It takes a long time to acknowledge or accept it for what it is…a perverse act of exploitation and depravity, often times at the hands of someone you trust. You wish it away, you hope that the “touch” was an innocent one or a one off accident…but when the full force of the incident finally hits you, you go through a multitude of confusing and conflicting emotions.

You begin to wonder whether you were to blame in the first place. Or perhaps this kind of behavior is to be expected from bosses and those in positions of power? What of the consequences? If I tell my husband, will he ask me to leave my job and sit at home? If I tell my friends, will they simply laugh it off? If I complain to my institution, will they try and hush it up? Will my male colleagues begin keeping a distance from me? Will I be fired? After all, the more powerful the perpetrator of the offence, the more potent the chance of a backlash! And if I remain quiet, will I be accused of cowardice?

And it is in this context that you must view […]’s angst and what she went through at the hands of a senior supreme court judge with stellar credentials… someone she trusted…someone with a reputation for justice and fairness…and someone she least expected would perpetrate such a wanton act of degeneracy. It must have taken her a lot to come out in the open with this. But what surprised me most was the spiritual maturity with which she handled it.

Crying foul and baying for blood would have been the most obvious reaction of someone who went through what she did…a reaction that often caters to our primal need for revenge. And yet this girl, all of 23 years old who just graduated form law school decided that that was not the path for her. Rather, in a deeply reflective post, she mulls over the larger context of the incident, the recent protests against sexual violence, her understanding of current feminist paradigms and her inability to pigeonhole her reaction within any of the existing templates…

… her outpouring and public exposure is not a vengeful one, designed to make someone pay for what he did. But with a view to preventing future assaults. Something that our criminal justice system should actually be about. Not vengeance, but aimed at preventing future crimes and hopefully reforming the deviant as well. I can theorise and wax eloquent about this aspect of the criminal justice system, but I doubt very much if I can ever actualize it in the way Stella did, were I to be faced with a similar assault. And for that, she is my hero.

Journalist Nikhil Kanekal, tweeting on @nkanekal, wrote: “The university to which the retired Supreme Court justice was affiliated to is likely to pursue charges against him under their code.”

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