Recurring instances of security breaches at college festivals shows lackadaisical approach of authorities: HC

The Delhi High Court has taken suo motu cognisance of security breaches at college festivals and demanded action by authorities after several female Delhi University students alleged that they were secretly filmed while changing in an IIT-Delhi washroom for a fashion show at the institute’s fest.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma, in an order passed on Monday, stated it was imperative that adequate security measures are put in place to allow students to attend such events without any impending fear of experiencing such acts of violation.

The court, which earlier also dealt with the incident of alleged sexual harassment of girl students during a cultural festival at the all-women Gargi College of Delhi University in February 2020, observed that “unfortunately” it has been confronted with several cases of student harassment during such festivals.

Such “recurrent instances”, it said, show the “lackadaisical approach of authorities organising such festivals in envisaging and enforcing protective mechanisms, aimed at ensuring safety of students participating or attending the event”.

“Thus, in view of the afore-noted episode, this Court deems it appropriate to take suo motu cognisance of the issue of security breaches, particularly in respect of female attendees, at the festivals organised by colleges/universities in Delhi-NCR,” said the bench, also comprising Justice Sanjeev Narula.

The court issued notice to IIT Delhi, IP University and Delhi University and asked them to submit a report indicating their existing policy qua security measures during college festivals held at their premises.

With respect to the recent incident at IIT Delhi, the court directed the police here to file a status report in two weeks stating the action taken against the accused.

“This episode has left the victims distraught, and has understandably raised concerns regarding misuse of the videos, including their circulation on various social media platforms,” the court stated.

“Given the gravity and sensitivity of the matter, we are of the opinion that immediate action is required,” it observed.

The court also issued notice to Delhi government and Delhi Police in the matter and was informed that a case has been registered under Section 354C (voyeurism) of the Indian Penal Code, and the accused is currently in judicial custody.

The court further asked the Investigating Officer to exercise utmost discretion during investigation and ensure anonymity of the women involved.

It also directed that prompt steps be taken to prevent dissemination of photographs clicked and videos recorded by the accused.

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In the event such content is circulated on any of the social media platforms, the Deputy Commissioner of Police concerned as well as the IO are directed to undertake immediate steps for their take-down, in accordance with law, it ordered.

The matter would be heard next on November 10.

About 10 students from Delhi University’s Bharti College recently alleged that they were secretly filmed while changing in the IIT-Delhi washroom for a fashion show during the institute’s Rendezvous festival on October 6.

The girls, in a video posted on social media, alleged that the administration didn’t take action against the accused even after being informed.

A complaint was received at Kishangarh police station regarding the incident and the accused, a 20-year-old contractual cleaner, was arrested, the police has said.

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