Scientist sacked for sexually harassing junior colleague

A top Indian scientist has been sacked by a government research institute on the charge of sexually harassing a junior female colleague.

The dismissed scientist, Kanury V S Rao, was a member of all the three science academies - Indian National Science Academy, Indian Academy of Sciences and National Academy of Sciences - and considered one of the brightest in Indian science.

Last month, Faridabad-based Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI) - a research agency under the Department of Biotechnology - terminated his employment after finding him guilty of sexual misconduct.

Rao was holding the position of THSTI national chair at the institute. Before joining the institute, he worked at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Delhi.

Sources said Rao was given the termination letter after a meeting of the institute governing body.

THSTI director Gagandeep Kang couldn't be reached for comment despite repeated efforts.

'Fabricated'

Rao denied the allegations. "The allegations of sexual harassment against me were entirely fabricated and simply represent a case where professional disgruntlement evolved into a larger conspiracy to malign and defame me, in order to eventually effect my removal," he said.

"Unfortunately, the enquiry committee also solely went by empirical impressions, relying for its findings only on weak circumstantial criteria rather than any real evidence. Key issues such as discrepancies in testimony, and the absence of any corroborative evidence whatsoever were completely ignored," he told DH.

The alleged incident of molestation took place in March 2015, but the junior THSTI scientist filed a complaint against Rao in June, 2017. An internal committee of the institute found Rao guilty of the charges, though he denied the allegation.

In November 2017, Rao petitioned the Delhi High Court against the THSTI enquiry report. "I was directed by the high court to first approach the appellate authority and return to the court only if I don't get justice there," he said.

Rao is also a recipient of the prestigious Shanti Swarup Bhatnagar award, given by the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.

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