HYDERABAD: The Sindh University (SU) professor saddled with a sexual harassment allegation has undauntedly taken the varsity as well as the alleged accuser to court to restore his dignity and job. The Sindh High Court (SHC) issued on Friday notices to nine respondents for January 18, 2018, for submission of their reply.
The petitioner, Associate Professor Dr Faraz Bughio, prayed the SHC to order an impartial inquiry over the harassment charge as per the Higher Education Commission's (HEC) policy guidelines. He also challenged the forced leave on which Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Fateh Muhammad Burfat sent him on November 2.
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"The purported false complaint is so serious in nature that without proving [Dr Bughio] guilty [and by] pronouncing a punitive action the authorities have condemned the petitioner not to live with the same dignity and honour that he was enjoying," reads the petition.
Dr Bughio, who is the third-most senior faculty member in the Institute of English Language and Literature (IELL), was among the three teachers whose names surfaced on social media on October 23 with harassment accusations by as many students. On October 25, VC Burfat transferred the teacher to the Dadu district campus which was followed by another order of his forced leave.
"The petitioner has been demoralised by this [forced leave] order without any cogent reason."
The petitioner's lawyer, Advocate Javed Ali Qazi, argued that the forced leave is tantamount to a punishment but one which has been slapped sans the due process of inquiry. The petitioner, who is a faculty member in IELL, although appeared before three inquiry committees, Qazi asserted that none fulfilled the criterion necessary for fairness.
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The lawyer also objected to the legality of two of these committees which consisted of the faculty of IELL because they also included teachers junior to Dr Bughio. "The formation of these committees was illegal," the counsel contended.
The committees called Dr Bughio for an inquiry on May 15 and May 16. Advocate Qazi claimed that his client was not even provided a written complaint of allegations against him. The proceedings of the two committees were allegedly leaked in the department. He appeared before the third committee on August 29, but even then he was not provided a written draft of the charges.
"Dr Bughio's students, faculty and other people heard about unproven sexual harassment through the grapevine. Later, this purported harassment was openly gossiped about on social media." The petition cited violations of the HEC's guidelines which stipulate strict secrecy about the identities of a complainant and an accused until one is proven guilty or innocent.
The SU's syndicate belatedly approved the HEC's policy last month. Under the policy, a 10-member hearing panel consisting of teachers, students and officers has to be formed to receive complaints and conduct the investigation.
The respondents include the HEC, SU's VC and registrar, IELL director, the harassment complaint cell chairperson, ASP Suhail Aijaz and IELL student Ramsha Memon who allegedly accused Dr Bughio of harassment.