Allahabad High Court stays suspension of AMU Professor

1 April 2010, Allahabad: In a case that stands to test the promise of equality to homosexuals held out by the Delhi High Court last year, a division bench of the Allahabad High Court stayed the suspension of Prof. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, Reader and Chair of the Department of Modern Indian Languages at Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) on grounds of alleged immoral conduct.

64 year old Siras, who is gay and has not concealed his sexual orientation, has been teaching at AMU for 22 years. He is due to be designated Professor since 2006. On 8 February 2010, three persons claiming to be television reporters barged into Siras’s house at the AMU campus and photographed Siras with his male friend. Minutes later, senior AMU staff entered the house and took the camera and photographs. Siras was suspended the next day and directed to vacate his official residence. He was also asked not to leave Aligarh until completion of inquiry by the university. Suspension meant that he lost the position of Chair of the Department of Modern Languages and could not apply for professorship. Two weeks later, AMU sent an [article of charge] alleging that Siras “has committed act of misconduct in as much as he indulged himself into immoral sexual activity and in contravention of basic moral ethics while residing in …, A.M.U. Aligarh thereby undermined pious image of the teacher community and as a whole tarnished the image of the University”.

In his reply, Siras denied the allegations and instead, complained of breach of privacy and unauthorized invasion of his house. Siras also challenged his suspension and eviction from residence before the Allahabad High Court. Siras accused AMU of violating his fundamental rights to privacy, dignity and equality and subjecting him to discrimination on account of his homosexuality.

On 1st April 2010, the case was heard by Justices Sunil Ambwani and K.N Pandey of the Allahabad High Court. Siras’s lawyer Anand Grover, asserted that neither his sexual orientation nor sexual activity in the privacy of his home interfere with his duties as a teacher and therefore, do not constitute misconduct. Further, Grover contended that such private matters are entitled to protection, something which the AMU disregarded while orchestrating the incident of 8 February. Counsel for AMU objected to the petition and stated that the petitioner must exhaust remedies provided in the AMU Act, 1920 before claiming relief through a writ.

Granting an injunction to the petitioner, the Court stayed the suspension, the order to vacate premises and not to leave Aligarh. Importantly, the Court noted that “the right of privacy is a fundamental right, needs to be protected and that unless the conduct of a person, even if he is a teacher is going to affect and has substantial nexus with his employment, it may not be treated as misconduct.” The Court also held that Siras is entitled to apply for Professorship. It directed the respondent – AMU to complete the inquiry expeditiously, in accordance with law. The Court further restrained the media from publishing or commenting on the incident of 8 February.

AMU has three weeks to file its response.

View the Petition HERE

View the Order HERE.


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