New Delhi: The Centre has removed a JNU professor, accused of sexual harassment, from the Supreme Court-empowered Environment Pollution (Prevention and Control) Authority (EPCA), tasked with taking various measures to tackle air pollution.
The Environment Ministry, in an order issued on July 4, announced the removal of Atul Kumar Johri, a professor at the School of Life Sciences at Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU). Johri was arrested in March for allegedly sexually harassing several women students.
The Delhi High Court had recently given JNU’s internal complaints committee two more weeks to complete its investigation into the alleged misconduct of Johri. Despite repeated attempts, Johri did not respond to queries from PTI regarding his removal from the EPCA.
Students, professors and women rights organisations had demanded Johri’s arrest, following allegations by some students of sexual harassment by him. The Environment Ministry in its notification also said that it had removed another member, professor Mukesh Khare of the department of civil engineering, IIT-Delhi, from the EPCA.
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Khare, when contacted, told PTI, “I had resigned six months back from the committee due to personal reasons. My resignation has also been accepted.” Confirming the development, a top Environment Ministry told PTI that Johri was removed as he had allegations of misconduct on him. “We are looking for replacements (in the EPCA),” the official added.
Sources in the Ministry said they had reports that many of the members were also not attending the meetings of the panel regularly. Asked about the development, another member of the EPCA also confirmed the removal of both the members and asserted that there were no contribution from some of the members. “There is a lack of interest from them,” the member said.
The Environment Ministry has also extended the tenure of the Authority up to October 3, 2018 after the expiry of its two-year term on July 4 this year. The EPCA is headed by Bhure Lal and includes environmentalist and CSE director general Sunita Narain as one of its members. The EPCA is also mandated to enforce Graded Response Action Plan (GRAP) in the city as per the pollution levels.
In November, the EPCA had enforced several measures, including closure of the Badarpur thermal power plant, ban on brick kilns, hot mix plants and stone crushers, and construction activities. The EPCA’s action plan, GRAP, has five categories to tackle pollution — severe plus or emergency, severe, very poor, moderate to poor, and moderate.