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Independent panel looking into Kalakshetra sexual harassment allegations launches web portal for complaints

The portal, which went live Saturday morning, allows Kalakshetra’s students to register complaints confidentially. Website says similar portal will be launched soon for teachers too.

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Raipur: An independent inquiry committee probing allegations of sexual harassment at Kalakshetra’s Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts has launched a web portal for students to file their complaints. 

The portal, reachoutsupport.co.in, which, according to sources at Kalakshetra Foundation, went live this morning, allows students to register with their name, last name and phone number. 

“All the mails, messages, images, video clippings and documents are assured to be kept confidential by the three members of the Committee and they will not be shared with anyone connected with the management of Kalakshetra, except to the extent of confronting matters relating to any particular person against whom statements are made,” reads the website. 

The development comes two weeks after an independent inquiry committee headed by Justice K. Kannan, a retired high court judge, was tasked with inquiring into allegations that ThePrint first reported on 21 March. 

Students had accused an assistant professor of  college, Hari Padman, and three contractual staffers of sexual harassment. Padman was arrested in connection with the case on 4 April. 

The portal contains information of the members of the 3-member inquiry committee: Apart from Justice Kannan, Tamil Nadu Director General of Police Letika Saran and Bengluru-based anesthesiologist Shobha Varthaman are also on the panel. 

The website says that students can also send their complaints or statements directly to Justice K. Kannan’s office.

The landing page of the website says a similar portal will be launched soon for teachers. 

The development comes two weeks after an independent inquiry committee headed by Justice K Kannan, a retired high court judge, was tasked with inquiring into allegations that ThePrint first reported on 21 March.

Students accuse an assistant professor of  college, Hari Padman and three contractual staffers of sexual harassment. Padman was arrested in connection with the case on 4 April.


Also Read: Lights, camera, sexual harassment—PoSH committees in Mumbai showbiz failing MeToo


The committee

On 21 March, within hours of ThePrint’s report, the National Commission for Women (NCW) sought to conduct an inquiry into the allegations at Kalakshetra’s Rukmini Devi College of Fine Arts.

However, upset over NCW’s inquiry and Kalakshtera’s handling of the row, students held a protest on campus of the prestigious central government-funded college of classical arts on 30 March.

Coming under growing pressure, Kalakshetra Foundation’s management board under chairperson S. Ramadorai announced an inquiry panel to look into the allegations and decided to suspend Padman and dismiss the three staffers — identified as Sai Krishnan, Sanjith Lal and Sreenath.

On 11 April, Kalakshetra announced the terms of reference of the committee — conducting a fair investigation, collecting all documentary evidence, including WhatsApp chats and CCTV footage from complainants and also getting a response from respondents such as Padman. 

The committee has been given two to three months to complete its investigation and submit a final report.

Meanwhile, the Tamil Nadu State Women’s Commission, which had also taken cognizance of the issue, also conducted a separate inquiry.

In a related development, on 17 April, the Madras HC directed the institute to reconstitute Kalakshetra’s foundation’s Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) on the back of a petition by five students.

An ICC is an internal committee set up under the The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, otherwise known as the POSH Act. It’s mandated to deal with sexual harassment complaints.

The court will now hear the case on 24 April.

(Edited by Uttara Ramaswamy)


Also Read: ‘No panga with minister’—Haryana woman sprinter’s lone battle against sexual harassment


 

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