Chennai, Dec 25: The board of governors of IIT-Madras has suspended a professor on charges of sexually harassing a research scholar who accompanied him on an academic tour of Europe in September. The suspension followed a probe by the complaints committee against sexual harassment of the institute which said B Ramamoorthy, a professor of mechanical engineering, behaved in "an improper manner, displaying what may be referred to as mala fide intentions towards a student who trusted him".
The research scholar had complained that the professor, with whom she had gone to Poland for a science conference in September this year, asked her to sleep in his hotel room. The student alleged she left the hotel after the professor tried to force himself on her at night.
Sources said the IIT-M governing body decided to suspend the professor based on recommendations of the inquiry report submitted two months ago. She had been through "severe depression and weight loss" in the weeks following the incident, according to statements of her friends, as recorded by the inquiry committee.
It found that the professor told the student to stay in his room and that she accepted it with the knowledge of her mother and a friend, since she didn't find anything wrong in sharing a room in a city in Southern Poland. The professor told the inquiry committee that he suggested her to stay with him considering her safety, and because she did not have enough money to pay for a room, said a source close to the panel. However, the inquiry found that after she left the room, he did not call her or try to find about her whereabouts to know if she was safe.
Ramamoorthi was not available for comment.
IIT-M director Bhaskar Ramamurthy and registrar VG Bhooma refused to reply to queries from TOI. A statement from the registrar's office said: "As per section 16 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, details regarding complaint of sexual harassment, if any, cannot be disclosed. In the light of the above, IIT-Madras is not in a position to give any details of complaints of sexual harassment received by us, whether past or present."
It said any complaint received is immediately forwarded to the complaints committee against sexual harassment which independently inquires into them.