Madras HC | POSH Act cannot be misused by women to harass someone with non-existent allegations

Madras High Court: A Division Bench of M. Sathyanarayanan and R. Hemalatha, JJ., while addressing the issue of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace, held that,

“Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is intended to have an equal standing for women in the work place and to have a cordial workplace in which their dignity and self respect are protected, it cannot be allowed to be misused by women to harass someone with an exaggerated or non-existent allegations.”

The present complaint was basically on the high handedness of the petitioner and the hurt to her self- respect due to his arrogant behaviour.

Once the internal committee on sexual harassment was constituted, complaint preferred another in which complainant narrated about the rude behaviour of the petitioner and had repeatedly mentioned the word ‘sexual harassment’.

Later complainant wrote a letter to Tamil Nadu State Commission for women stating that the Internal Committee would not render her justice as all the members were subordinate to the petitioner and therefore her complaint to be referred to the Local Committee.

Local Committee recommended an immediate detailed departmental enquiry against the petitioner by his employer. Complainant objected the new internal committee as well stating that she feels that she won’t get justice and thus approached the Central administrative Committee.

Local Committee had already conducted an enquiry and held that the Internal Committee formed by the employer was against the law.

Vijaykumar, Additional Government Pleader submitted that on perusal of the order passed by the Local Committee it reveals that it a cryptic order without recording statement of the complainant and others.

It is to be noted that,

“The original complaint dated 02.12.2013 was generic in nature. It elaborated upon how the petitioner was authoritative and also to some extent biased in his action and decisions. This is in sharp contrast to the written complaint dated 17.02.2016. Latter, though did not mention the date and sequence of events, talked about physical advances made by the petitioner and also his lewd remarks on her physical appearance.”

Further, T. Saikrishnan submitted that the objection of the complainant regarding the members of the Internal Committee was accepted by the employer and a senior lady officer was made the Chairperson which only shows the bonafide intention of the employer and that instead of respecting the superior office, the complainant went ahead with the complaint to the Local Committee which was unwarranted.

Conclusion

“Under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, the enquiry has to be a full-fledged one, not a preliminary one.”

Section 14 of the Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, provides for penalising the complainant if the complaint is found to be false with malicious intent.

In the present case, findings of the local committee in light of the above-stated provisions become invalid. Complainant’s complaint before the Local Committee smacks of tutoring.

Court states that,

A solitary allegation of intemperate language against a female employee does not constitute an offence under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

In the instant case, intemperate language used by the petitioner was the essence of the first complaint other than the bias and favouritism he (the petitioner) allegedly exhibited.

In view of the stated position, bench stated that constitution of internal committee for enquiry into sexual harassment allegations was not warranted.

Having formed the Committee, the defiant attitude of the complainant in not attending the Internal Committee hearing and the metamorphosis of the original complaint into a sexual harassment one before the Local Committee expose the real intentions of the complainant.

“It appears that the complainant made a futile attempt to settle her personal score with the petitioner.”

Court added to its decision that, Women employees cannot be allowed to go scot-free without completing their assignments.

Thus, the Court quashed the orders passed by CAT and Local Complaint Committee. [Union of India v. Reema Srinivasan Iyengar, WP Nos. 10689, 24290 and 4339 of 2019, decided on 17-02-2020]

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