CBSE issues orders to reinstate harassment victims in Army school

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has asked the management of Army Public School here to reinstate the art teacher and other members of the staff who were suspended for complaining of sexual harassment by the school Principal in 2011.

The CBSE in its order has also asked the school authorities to transfer the Principal concerned to any other school till the case, now pending in the court, is decided.

Art and Crafts teacher Mangla Bhatt had complained against the Principal, Rajiv Singh, of sexually harassing her on November 16, 2010. Class IV employee Meena Devi, along with other members of the school staff, had testified in the case before an inquiry committee of the school management as well as the police.

The CBSE committee, which conducted the inquiry here on March 12 this year, noted that the school had not been following the Supreme Court orders delivered in the Vishakha vs. State of Rajasthan case for protection of women at the workplace. The committee noted that Ms. Bhatt and other staff members were terminated on “very unjustifiable charges”.

“The committee recommends that all of them should be reinstated and paid full arrears of pay,” it recommended, suggesting that if the school management had any serious allegation against these people it should conduct a fresh inquiry in a “very judicious manner”. The school should also constitute a committee on sexual harassment and refer the case afresh to it, it suggested.

However, Defence officials were quick to point out that the CBSE had no control over the Army school, which is run by the Army Welfare Education Society. The matter is also sub judice , they noted.

“The case being sub judice , the issue is being studied. The school is run by the AWES rule book and therefore we will wait for their directions,” said S. D. Goswami, Defence spokesperson. “The hearing in the case is scheduled in court in July. We will follow the laws of the land,” Col. Goswami added.

The Rajasthan State Women's Commission, which also held an enquiry, noted that the school did not comply with the Vishakha orders at the time of the incident or now. The school has a teaching staff strength of 105 of whom only 20 are males. The women's organisations had made a representation to Union Defence Minister A. K. Antony, CBSE Chairperson Vineet Joshi and CPI (M) leader Brinda Karat.

Ms. Bhatt, who had joined the school in July 2006, was dismissed from service in May 2011 after an enquiry by the school management, on charges of indiscipline and also on the ground that she did not know English. Her troubles started after a case was registered at the Vaishali Nagar police station against the Principal under Sections 323, 354 and 504 of the Indian Penal Code on her complaint of April 5, 2011. Ms. Meena registered her complaint with the police on April 18, 2011. The Principal was briefly arrested after the complaints but was soon released on bail.

Several teachers and other staff members who testified were allegedly threatened by the school management. Ms. Bhatt was given a show cause notice on February 7, 2011, and was dismissed in May that year. Prior to that, the school management held an inquiry which itself, according to women's groups here, turned out to be “harassment”.

“The nature and conduct of the inquiry by the school management which included senior Army officers itself violated the Vishakha guidelines of 1997 given by the Supreme Court and the CBSE guidelines issued to schools in 2004, seeking compliance of the SC order,” said Kavita Srivastava, who interacted with the media in the presence of Ms. Bhatt, Ms. Meena and other witnesses here on Thursday.

Staff members complained of sexual harassment by the Principal in 2011

Principal to be transferred to other school while case is sub judice

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