WHAT IS THE PROCEDURE?
Disclaimer: The following information has been derived from both the Act and the Handbook issued by the Ministry of Women and Child Development. The guidelines in the handbook have been referenced by IC's, however, it is not mandatory in nature.
Although the University is a workplace for the employers and employees working there, as a student, there is a larger onus on the University to ensure your safety on campus. Thus, IC's must conduct the proceedings in a manner that is conducive to creating a safe learning environment.
IC proceedings are nothing like a criminal trial or your court-room drama tv shows. The evidentiary threshold required in such proceedings is low, legally termed preponderance of probability, meaning that IC's should decide in favour of the side that seems more consistent and probable. IC proceedings are simpler and easier to navigate. Equipping you with this information will help you notice any irregularities in the proceedings and notify them.
Additionally, try to ensure that all communications to the IC are conveyed over mail in case you need to complain to the UGC if your IC is not complying with the provisions of the Act.
As per the law, the IC proceedings are kept confidential even after the process is over. Also, during the inquiry process, upon your request, the IC may recommend the University to take various interim measures to protect you, i.e, transfer you or the accused to another section or department/ grant you leave up to 3 months/ or any other measure which may be prescribed.
While certain circumstances may change the specific manner in which an IC conducts its proceedings, they have to be conducted in line with the principles of natural justice, i.e, give you sufficient opportunity to present your statement, present evidence and cross-examine the other party.
Here are the steps of the process which IC's generally follow:
1. Once the IC has confirmed the receipt of your complaint in writing, they should first meet with you. They should make you aware of the various recourse that you have including informal mechanisms, click here to read more about your available recourse. Keep in mind, that they are merely educating you about your options and you may choose whatever option is comfortable for you. (As per the Handbook)
2. If you opt for the formal process of inquiry, then the IC should send one copy of the complaint to the accused within a period of seven days from the receipt of the complaint.
3. The IC will ask you to send across any evidence or supporting documents that you have in your favour.
4. Upon receipt of the copy of the complaint, the accused should file his or her reply to the complaint along with the list of documents, and names and addresses of witnesses within a period of ten days.
5. Once, the IC has obtained the evidence and list of witnesses from both sides, it should begin its questioning. As per the Handbook:
The process of questioning is to hear statements of all relevant persons orally and note whether their statements are logical and consistent.
When you are questioned, the IC is should be empathetic and sensitive.
Each questioning must be conducted with each person separately and in confidence.
You and the accused are allowed to cross-question each-other based on the statements and evidence submitted, many IC's. If you are not comfortable with face to face interaction, the IC may allow for you send them a written list of questions for the accused and likewise ask you questions from the accused' list of questions; to ensure that you are able to speak freely and comfortably.
The IC also has the discretion to call any person as a witness whom they deem has relevant information to the inquiry process.
6. Once they have heard both parties, all witnesses and conducted a cross-examination, they will evaluate the statements and evidence presented and on a balance of probability i.e, whatever seems more logical and likely. After this, they should prepare the final report, within 90 days of receipt of your complaint.
7. The inquiry report, with recommendations, if any, has to be submitted within ten days from the completion of the inquiry to the Executive Authority of your University, i.e, the Registrar or Vice-Chancellor. As per the Handbook, the final report should contain:
A description of the different aspects of the complaint;
A description of the process followed;
A description of the background information and documents that support or refute each aspect of the complaint;
An analysis of the information obtained;
Findings (Whether the IC finds the accused guilty or not)
Recommendations, if any, i.e, the punishment and course of action that the IC deems appropriate