Listed Under “To report and record the action taken by the Vice-Chancellor in exercise of his powers/delegated powers vested upon him”, is the Reporting Item:
54.13. in approving on 31.12.2013, provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act. 2013 and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 will supersede the University Ordinance-XV-D, with immediate effect.
This action cannot be regarded as action taken by the Vice Chancellor in exercise of emergency powers on the following counts:
- Under the Delhi University Act, it is the Executive Council that has the sole authority to make, repeal and amend Ordinances (Clause 31). The Statute 11-G.(4) which provides emergency powers to the Vice Chancellor are within that framework. The emergency powers cannot be used to violate the act.
- The situation did not warrant use of emergency powers.
- The Registrar letter of __ January 2014, which notified the withdrawal of the Ordinance XV-D, does not mention use of emergency power. It needs to be mentioned that this letter issued by the Registrar does not find mention in the agenda of the EC, not even as an Annexure.
- Any changes envisaged in Ordinances as a result of the new Parliamentary Law must be first discussed in the Executive Council, which would have to apply its mind to examine which are the changes necessary in the light of the new Law, and thereby frame appropriate amendments.
- The new notified Law must be reported in a meeting of the Executive Council, which should have set up a committee including some legal experts specializing in gender issues, to examine the implications for Ordinance XV(D). This committee should have proposed amendments in the Ordinance to fulfill the requirements of the new Law.
- There is no provision in the new Law that requires the dissolution of committees and provisions that are not in contradiction to the stipulations in the new Law. For example, the requirement that complaints committees are standing committees with representation from all sections of employees is fulfilled by the provisions in Ordinance XV(D).
- In the University, students are important stakeholders, and have therefore been given representation in committees by Ordinance XV(D). This does not contradict the provisions laid down in the new Law, but only supplements it.
- Similarly, the provision of election to the committees is not in contradiction to the provisions of the new Law, since this method has been devised by the Executive Council itself. In our experience in Delhi University, it is the violation of this important aspect of Ordinance XV(D) that has led to denial of justice with tragic consequences as in the case of Pavitra Bhardwaj.
- The gender neutrality of Ordinance XV(D) expands and enhances the new Law, but in no way violates it. In fact, in the Ramjas college case, this aspect was objected to by the accused, but the Hon’ble Supreme Court upheld its constitutionality.
- At no stage can there be a vacuum in terms of a mechanism to deal with complaints. Until Ordinance XV(D) is duly amended to comply with the new Law, it must continue to operate. Pending cases must, in any case, be examined under the existing Ordinances.
Abha Dev Habib