How to file a complaint with your institute’s ICC

A step-by-step breakdown of what you need to do.

WrittenBy:Vaishnavi Suresh
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It was a case where one social media outing snowballed into an avalanche of stories. Students, professors, alumni—abusers across power positions were called out. Three weeks, two petitions and multiple news articles later, the accused professors are suspended and the director was asked to go on leave pending an enquiry.


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This is what happened at Symbiosis Centre for Media and Communication (SCMC).

Throughout this, as an alumna of the institute, I spoke to over 100 students and alumni of the college and filed a petition to make the campus safer. Amidst all the trauma, solidarity and confusion, one question always came up: what next?

In the light of the number of people who have been called out, the first step that one can take on a college level is to report to the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). SCMC had an ICC that most students didn’t know about. When questioned on their procedures and the selection of their members, the presiding officer refused to comment since the matters are sub judice at present.

Nonetheless, to help lessen the confusion, here is a step-by-step breakdown on how to file a complaint with your institute’s ICC.

Step 1: What constitutes sexual harassment?

Sexual harassment covers a vast range of offences including:

  1. Unconsented physical, verbal or nonverbal sexual conduct
  2. Demand or request for sexual favours
  3. Showing pornography
  4. Making sexually coloured remarks
  5. Unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature
  6. Promise of preferential treatment in exchange for sexual favours
  7. Threat of detrimental treatment for refusal
  8. Creating a hostile and intimidating environment
  9. Humiliating treatment likely to impact health or safety of the victim

Step 2: How to file a complaint

A staff member or student who has faced harassment can approach the presiding officer of the ICC or another committee member who can accompany them to the presiding officer. The complaint will have to be submitted in writing. In case the victim cannot write the complaint, the ICC members must assist them. The complaint should be made within three months of the incident and in case of a series of incidents, within three months of the last incident. In certain cases, if the ICC is convinced of the victim’s reasons, they can look into matters that occurred even six months earlier.

Step 3: After a petition is filed

  1. Within seven days of filing a complaint, the ICC is required to give a copy of the complaint to the alleged offender.
  2. Within 10 days of the ICC giving the complaint, the alleged offender must file their reply and provide details on their witnesses.
  3. The ICC can take up to 90 days for enquiry and submitting a report. This report should be sent to the victim and the offender within 10 days of the report being submitted.
  4. The ICC cannot take more than 30 days after the submission of the report to take action against the offender in accordance with the report’s instructions.
  5. During the entire process, the identity of the victim and the alleged offender should be protected. Both sides can produce witnesses and evidence.

Step 4: What is the scope of the punishment for the alleged offender?

If the person found guilty is a student, the punishment can include:

  1. Restriction of access to places such as the library, hostels and other residential quarters, auditoriums, etc.
  2. Restrict transportation, scholarships identity card and allowances.
  3. Suspension or barring entry into the campus for a specific period of time.
  4. Exclusion and removal of names from the rolls of the institution and even denial of readmission.
  5. If need be, mandatory counselling or community services.

If the person found guilty is a professor, the punishment can include: a written apology, a warning, reprimand or censure, withholding of pay rise or increments, termination from service, counselling, and community service.

Step 5: What is the permitted compensation for the victim?

The victim is liable to monetary compensation from the offender. The amount of the compensation is recommended by the ICC and the institution based on mental trauma, medical expenditure of the victim, loss of career opportunity due to the incident, and the income of the offender and the victim.


What if the complaint is false?

A false complaint made with malicious intent is liable to punishment according to the University Grants Commission (UGC) guidelines. However, lack of adequate proof will not be considered a false complaint.

What if the victim is threatened by the abuser during the course of the enquiry?

Fearing the safety of the victim, the institute can:

  • Transfer the victim or the abuser to a different section or department.
  • Grant leave to the victim with full benefits for a period of three months.
  • Restrict the abuser from evaluating the work of the victim (exams, work performance, etc.)
  • Warn the offender to keep a distance from the victim if there is a threat, and even bar their entry into campus.
  • Take strict measures to provide a safe and conducive environment for the victim.

What if your institute doesn’t have an ICC or refuses to register your complaint?

In such a case, one can complain to the UGC. The UGC can:

  • Withdraw the institute’s fitness to receive grants.
  • Withhold grants to the said institute.
  • Declare the institute ineligible for any assistance
  • Inform the general public, through media, that the institute does not provide zero tolerance against sexual harassment policy.
  • Recommend affiliated university to withdraw affiliation if it is a college and ask the central government to withdraw affiliation if it is an established university.

However, no action can be taken until the institute is given an opportunity to explain itself.

Pro tip:

Lawyer and journalist Avantika Mehta suggests asking these questions to the ICC before you file a complaint (as shared on Twitter by journalist Raksha Kumar):


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