Sindh University professor challenges action against him without inquiry

HYDERABAD:26 november: Guilty or not guilty? Although this has yet to be decided, a Sindh University (SU) teacher embroiled in a sexual harassment controversy finds himself subjected to retribution sans inquiry. In a legal notice served to SU on Thursday, associate professor Faraz Bughio of the Institute of English Language and Literature defended his innocence and challenged the legality of the varsity’s actions.

He is the third most senior faculty member, currently guiding 10 doctors of philosophy and master’s of philosophy research scholars.

Accused of making sexual advancements by a student, he was transferred and sent on indefinite forced leave. Prof Bughio contended that the punitive action not only inflicted embarrassment on him by tacitly attributing guilt to him but also affected his students and research scholars.

Prof Bughio is one of the three teachers accused of harassment by as many complainants in an unsigned complaint letter that surfaced on social media last month. Subsequently, SU as well as the Jamshoro police initiated separate inquiries. But, both the inquiries have still not established the guilt of any of the teachers.

SU teachers defamed by harassment charges

ASP Suhai Aijaz, who is investigating the case, had claimed that she would lodge an FIR against the teachers if she found incriminating evidence. But no police case has been lodged in the last four weeks. A police official, who requested anonymity, told The Express Tribune that the complainant is not willing to register an FIR against Prof Bughio apparently for want of evidence.

“He has been condemned to live the rest of his life without the same dignity and honour he was enjoying before the forced leave,” argued the notice served by advocate Javed Ahmed Qazi. “[Prof Bughio] has been made a scapegoat to save those who are involved in sexual harassment.”

The lawyer went on to associate the whole incident with professional jealousy of some senior and junior colleagues. According to the notice, the first inquiry against Prof Bughio was conducted on May 15 by a three-member committee and the second, on the following day, by a five-member committee.

Advocate Qazi claimed that no written complaint against the teacher was brought forward during either of the sessions. The counsel also challenged the legal status of the two committees because two of the three members in the first and three of the five members in the second were junior to Prof Bughio.

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The lawyer referred to a provision in the Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) Policy Guidelines Against Sexual Harassment, which stipulated providing copy of a written complaint to the respondent. On August 29, he was made to appear before another committee but, like in the former hearings, no written complaint was shown, the notice claimed.

SU Vice-Chancellor Prof Dr Fateh Muhammad Burfat transferred the teacher to the varsity’s Dadu campus on October 25 and on November 2 he was sent on forced leave. The notice gave seven days to SU to withdraw both the transfer and long leave orders, after which the actions will be challenged in Sindh High Court.

Prof Bughio could not be contacted for his version. However, a family member told The Express Tribune that the teacher possessed evidence to prove the allegations are spurious and establish his innocence.

SU’s syndicate on November 19 belatedly approved setting up a harassment cell under the HEC’s policy guidelines which were formulated in 2009. But the cell’s head and members of the 10-person hearing panel are yet to be announced. Prof Bughio offered himself for inquiry before the cell in the notice, which should fulfil the manner of investigation as laid down in the HEC policy.The Express Tribune.