In the last week of October, a crowdsourced list of alleged sexual predators in Indian universities began to circulate widely on the internet, first on Facebook, then as a Google spreadsheet. Compiled by a law student named Raya Sarkar and blogger Inji Pennu, the list on October 28 identified 58 professors from 29 Indian colleges, universities and research centres, accusing them of crimes ranging from sexual harassment to rape. In many cases, the nature of the alleged crime was left unclear, and in all cases, no evidence was presented in public.

Many found the anonymous nature of allegations disquieting. Some pointed out that the women could have instead registered formal complaints against the professors, using the due process available in the form of internal complaints committees that conduct inquiries under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

As reported earlier, in response to questions sent by to all 29 institutions, eight wrote back to say no formal complaint had been filed against the professors featured on the list.

But in the case of six institutions, which did not reply to the emails, formal complaints had been filed against the professors, long before the list became public. While there is no way of knowing whether they tally with the ones reported to Sarkar and Pennu, these complaints are a matter of public record – they led to court cases, police investigations and media coverage.

In all six cases, emailed the institutions asking about the status of the inquiries into those formal complaints, but the institutions did not respond.

In three cases, was able to trace the outcome of the complaints, based on conversations with the complainants, members of the internal committees, former students and faculty members. What emerged was a complex picture which offers some insight into why women are reluctant to make formal complaints.

Institute of Rural Management, Anand

In Marc, a woman working at the Institute of Rural Management in Anand, Gujarat, filed a sexual harassment complaint against the director, RC Natarajan. The complaint was filed with the internal complaints committee of the institute.

About two weeks later, she was informed that the committee was being reconstituted, said one of her colleagues. Fearing this would derail the internal investigation, the woman then filed a complaint with the local complaints committee headed by the district collector, as well as a First Information Report with the police.

The woman was “treated like a troublemaker,” said her colleague. “Many staff-members stopped talking to her and think she is shameless because she spoke openly about her experience and gave the institution a bad name.”

Natarajan had a long association with IRMA, where he had studied in the mid-1980s. The alumni wrote “horrible letters” to the complainant, accusing her of filing a false complaint to “extend her term” at the campus, the colleague said. The complainant’s term was ending in April. She was given a one year extension till 2018.

An alumnus defended Natarajan, saying the case against him was “part of a larger conspiracy” and that he is “a victim” of the situation. “The committee needed reconstitution because its external member [every committee is required to have a representative from another organisation] had resigned, making it defunct,” he said.

While the internal committees are legally bound to keep all proceedings confidential, maintaining secrecy becomes harder when the police or courts are involved. In this case, the complainant’s name was published in a news report.

In April, Natarajan surrendered to the police. He was given bail by an Anand court and there has been little progress in the case since then. Natarajan was sent on leave pending inquiry about a fortnight after the complaint was filed. In July, he resigned. The woman continues to work at the institute.

Both Natarajan and the complainant declined to speak to

University of Delhi

In April 2007, an official at Delhi University’s Gandhi Bhawan filed a complaint of sexual harassment against its director, political science professor Bidyut Chakrabarty. By March 2012, when the matter was finally closed, the complainant had left the campus and wanted nothing to do with the case. “She had a very bitter experience and wanted to move on,” said an activist who had supported and advised her.

During the course of the initial enquiry, concluded in June 2007, four or five others from Chakrabarty’s department, faculty members and students, came forward to depose against him. “They reported he made sexually coloured comments in class and would ask students to stay back in the evenings,” said an academic who was a member of that inquiry committee.

But efforts at further inquiries were “constantly stymied,” said the committee member. First, Chakrabarty issued show-cause notices to the complainant and two others for dereliction of duty, and the university constituted a committee to inquire into it. “They finally found nothing because Chakrabarty was just building a case against her,” said the committee member.

But the tactic caused delays. The committee’s report from June 25, 2007 was tabled three months later at the meeting of Delhi University’s highest decision-making body, the executive council. It found Chakravarty guilty of sexual harassment. Recommendations for punitive action included issuing a letter of warning and barring him from holding administrative and supervisory posts for three years. The committee member told that they believed these measures were “pretty mild”. The university accepted the recommendations and issued an order against Chakrabarty on October 8, 2007.

In May 2009, he challenged the inquiry report in the Delhi High Court on the ground that he had not be allowed to cross-examine the complainant. The High Court decided in his favour and struck down Delhi University’s order. The university moved Supreme Court, which appointed a commissioner in January 2010 to oversee a written cross-examination. By this time, said the committee member, the complainant had already left Delhi University.

According to the committee member, Chakrabarty submitted 183 questions for the complainant to answer and another 583 for colleagues who had deposed against him. “These included questions about the nature of their marriage, whether they were living with partners, and became another form of harassment,” said the committee member. “Everyone found them humiliating and intrusive. The complainant was fed up with the process but I convinced her to answer all 182.”

The inquiry resumed with the permission of the Supreme Court in May 2010. The committee last met in August 2010. Their final report was tabled before the executive council in March 2012. The original punishment was restored. A photograph of that resolution was widely circulated on social media but as the committee member admitted: “Nothing really happened”. The original punishment recommended by the committee in 2008 was for three years. Those three years were already over.

Image of the Delhi University Executive Council's resolution on the case. It was widely circulated on social media when Chakrabarty's name came up as one of the contenders for the post of Vice Chancellor. (Credit: Facebook/ Delhi University Teachers)

Chakravarty did not respond to the detailed set of questions sent him, but in statements made to the media in 2015 when he was being considered for the post of Vice Chancellor of the university, he denied all charges of harassment or being indicted by the committee. Despite voluminous records of the inquiry, starting with the official complaint, the minutes of the internal committee meetings, letters, orders and depositions, he maintained that he stepped down only because he was traveling on various international fellowships, not for any disciplinary action.

Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata

In December 2015, three women students of Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, Kolkata, filed sexual harassment complaints against three male professors with the internal complaints committee. They had not known such a committee existed, until one of them confided in the dean. That conversation led to a workshop on sexual harassment for students, which was followed by three complaints being registered separately but around the same time. The names of two of the three professors – Neeraj Mohan Sahay and Shyamal Sengupta – feature on the list compiled by Sarkar and Pennu.

Soon after the complaints were made, all three professors were suspended. In the case of Neeraj Mohan Sahay, Sahay’s case, the complaint was forwarded to the police since the accusation was of rape.

But two of the complainants – could not speak to the third – say this brought them little relief.

“We were kind of ostracised,” said one of the complainants. The student body split into two, she said, with the majority take a position against them. Many witnesses sprung up to speak in support of the professors, accusing the internal complaints committee of bias, and asking for the return of the professors.

Another complainant said a “smear-campaign...mainly by students” followed the suspension. She had accused one teacher of harassment and another of rape. Some students alleged it could not have been rape because the woman was seen with the professor in question. “They yelled abuses at me, implying that I am sleeping with the professor. We were getting threats [and had] men roaming around us with sticks.”

The complaints committee, investigating only the harassment charges, eventually found the two professors accused guilty and recommended dismissal for them. But the complainants alleged a proposal to dissolve the committee itself had been tabled at the governing council’s meeting in March. They feared this was an attempt to overturn the committee’s decision. Ultimately, support for the students from women’s organisations and one council member’s refusal to sign the minutes of that governing council meeting, led to the decision being rescinded.

Pursuing the rape complaint, the police arrested Sahay in Thane, Maharashtra, in January 2016. A chargesheet has been filed in the case. Sahay is now out on bail. His lawyer Kaushik Gupta declined to comment on the allegations. “Since a criminal case is pending in this case, and the matter is sub judice, it would not be right to comment on this issue,” he said.

The other two professors too have challenged the findings of the internal complaints committee and the punitive action in the Kolkata High Court. Sengupta did not respond to’s emailed questions. If he does, his comments will be added.

The student who had complained of rape said she wished that allegation had been investigated internally – the complaint had been forwarded to the police without her consent. She is unhappy about being dragged into a police case and the protracted court battle that lies ahead.