Bangladesh: High Court Orders on Jahagirnagar University

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Press release: human rights defenders ask the High Court to explain why a university teacher was exonerated of sexual harassment.
"The High Court today asked Jahangirnagar University Authorities to show cause why its decision dated 13.9.2008 to exonerate Sanower Hossain Sunny, a teacher of the Department of Drama and Dramatic Theory, of charges of sexual harassment should not be declared to be without lawful authority, why a fresh inquiry should not be held into the matter, and why a Commission of Inquiry under a former Supreme Court Justice should not be established in this connection.
The High Court also stayed operation of the order dated 25.10.2008 of the Syndicate suspending six students of the University including four of the women who had originally made complaints against this teacher and two other who had given evidence against him.

The writ petition was filed by Prof. Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, Ain o Salish Kendra represented by Sultana Kamal, Kamal Lohani, Nijera Kori, represented by Khushi Kabir, and Kormojibi Nari represented by Shirin Akhter.

A Division Bench comprising Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain and Justice Quamrul Islam Siddiqi issued the Rule Nisi and the interim order. The petitioner’s lawyers were Ms. Sara Hossain, Dr. Shirin Sharmeen Choudhury, Mr. Ramzan Ali Sikder, Ms. Ainun Nahar Siddiqa and Ms. Abanti Nurul.

Background

In April 2008, four women students submitted written complaints of sexual harassment against Asst Prof Sanower Hossain Sunny of the Drama and Dramatic Theory Department. A preliminary inquiry committee was set up and then a further inquiry committee. On consideration of their reports, the Syndicate established a Full Inquiry Committee under Section 44 of the Jahangirnagar University Act. This report was submitted to the Syndicate which decided on 13.9.2008 to exonerate the said teacher of all charges ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. No reasons were given for this decision. The Syndicate, despite having clear powers to do so, had never suspended the teacher pending inquiry. After this decision, the teacher was then reinstated. Within a few days, following an incident on campus, he himself made a complaint – against six students (two of whom had made complaints against him and two of whom had given evidence against him). The syndicate moved the same day to suspend these students.

2 December 2008

Source: Ain o Salish Kendra