As police arrest Hari Padman, TN Women’s Commission tells Kalakshetra to bar entry of others named by students

Kalakshetra director appeared before Women's Commission Chairman, who sought explanations on allegations raised against the faculty members.

ByVinodh Arulappan

Published Apr 03, 2023 | 4:29 PMUpdatedApr 04, 2023 | 1:21 AM

Kalakshetra women's commission

The Tamil Nadu State Women’s Commission has instructed the Kalakshetra director not to allow the three faculty members, who were alleged to have harassed students, inside the institution until the safety of the students is ensured.

On Monday, 3 April, the Kalakshetra Director Revathi Ramachandran appeared before State Women’s Commission Chairperson AS Kumari, who sought explanations over the allegations raised against the faculty members.

Insists on safe environment

Speaking to the media, Kumari said that she questioned the functioning of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in Kalakshetra and also insisted on a safe environment for the students.

“I have also instructed Director Revathi Ramachandran not to allow the faculty members Sanjith Lal, Sai Krishnan and Sreenath inside the institution premises until the safety of the students is ensured,” she said.

Kumari also stated that she had received a few more complaints from former students and they were being processed.

She also said, “Once I record all the complaints and after a full-fledged inquiry, I will submit my report to the chief minister for further action.”

Hari Padman arrested

Earlier in the day, Assistant Professor Hari Padman was arrested by the Adayar police in Chennai in connection with the complaint of sexual harassment by a former student.

According to the complainant, the assistant professor had harassed her via text messages and voice calls, in 2019.

Based on her complaint, he was booked under Sections 354A (sexual harassment), 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 4 (the penalty for harassment of woman) of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act.

Since the assistant professor was absconding after the FIR was filed, a special team was formed by the Adayar police to trace him.

The police confirmed that Hari Padman had left Hyderabad on Friday evening, after a performance scheduled there was cancelled.

Related: Hari Padman arrested over sexual harassment allegations

Nabbed from Madhavaram

Since his mobile phone was switched off, the police conducted an inquiry with his family and close circle of friends.

In the wee hours of Monday, the police found that he had taken asylum at a friend’s house in Madhavaram near Chennai.

A team of Adayar police reached the house and picked up Hari Padman, who was then taken to the Adayar police station for a preliminary inquiry. His mobile phone was also confiscated.

According to a senior police officer, after a preliminary inquiry and a proper medical check-up, he will be produced before the concerned magistrate.

He also said that they will be seeking police custody of the arrested for further enquiry.

Related: Protests rock Kalakshetra Foundation over sexual harassment allegations

‘Did not produce records’

Meanwhile, the State Women’s Commission chairperson said that the Kalakshetra director had not produced the students’ complaints, and other records against faculty members before the ICC .

“I had asked them to produce the last 10 years’ records of the ICC,” she stated.

“When they said that they haven’t received any complaints against the particular four faculty members, I told the director that the students are hesitant and have a lack of confidence in revealing the harassment to the Kalakshetra management,” Kumari said.

Kumari also told reporters that she told the Kalakshetra director not to conduct exams online, as the students want to showcase their talents offline.

Earlier, on 31 March, when Kumari visited Kalakshetra, more than 17 students deposed — in private — before her about the harassment that they allegedly faced from the senior faculty members at the institution.

Nearly 100 students reportedly gave written complaints about various kinds of harassments they faced at the institution.

Kumari also had a video call interaction with five of the students who went to Hyderabad on Friday for a performance.

Emergency board meeting

Following the arrest of Hari Padman and the State Women’s Commission summons to the director, the Kalakshetra management had called for an emergency board meeting on the morning of 3 April.

Earlier, the students of Kalakshetra, who protested seeking action against the senior faculty stated that though they called off their protest, they would get back to the regular curriculum only after their demands — including the dismissal of faculty members Hari Padman, Sanjith Lal, Sai Krishnan, and Sreenath — are met.

It is to be noted that the Kalakshetra had announced the closure of the institute and hostel till 6 April following the protest by the students