Chhattisgarh High Court: Narendra Kumar Vyas J. allowed the petition and remarked “any victim of sexual harassment at workplace should not run pillar to post to get her redressal”.

The petitioner is a Senior Professor of English posted at Government J.P. Verma, P.G. Arts and Commerce College, Bilaspur. Respondent 5, an Assistant Professor in English and posted at Government College, Akaltara visited Government J.P. Verma P.G. Arts and Commerce College, Bilaspur and used obscene language about the petitioner. He used words “Tripathi Chalo Maja Kare Tum to Janti Ho Pichle Bara Varso se Tumhare Mere Saririk Sambandh Hai Aur Itne He Varso Se Tum Meri Rakhel Ho” in presence of number of professors. The petitioner informed the authorities to take action but no action was taken, and thus, she made a complaint to respondent 1 to the Government of Chhattisgarh. A preliminary fact finding inquiry was conducted but not to much avail and neither the principal after receiving complaint lodged any report nor has given permission or direction to the petitioner to lodge FIR, so she has not lodged the report directly. The above events demonstrate that the guidelines given by the Vishaka Committee was not followed as the incident has been taken place in the workplace, therefore, the employer should have forwarded the copy of the complaint along with inquiry report to the police station, so the police can take cognizance on the complaint.

Counsel for the State submitted that the allegation of the petitioner that she was sexually harassed at workplace is not applicable to the present facts of the case as respondent 5 was working at Government College, Akaltara whereas the petitioner was working at J.P. Verma, P.G. Arts and Commerce College, Bilaspur. As such inquiry cannot be initiated against respondent 5 for sexual harrassment at workplace as the workplaces are entirely different.

The Court relied on Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 241 and observed that Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act i.e. POSH Act has been formulated in pursuance of the guidelines of the Supreme Court in case of Vishaka (supra).  Also, the petitioner and respondent 5 are employees of State Government working in the Higher Education Department. Their service conditions are governed by Chhattisgarh Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1966.

 Will the incident attract the term “employer” within its ambit?

The Court observed that they are appointed by State Government, Higher Education Department, as such, they are employed by the same employer. The employer has been defined in Section 2(g) of the Act, 2013 which means in relation to any department, organization, undertaking, establishment, enterprises, office, branch or unit of the appropriate government or a local authority, the head of that department and clause (II) of the Section provides that in any workplace not covered under clause (I) any person responsible for the management, supervision and control of the workplace will be called as employer, thus, Secretary Higher Education Department, Director of Higher Education Department and Principal of the Institution will be employer so far as the Act, 2013 is concerned, therefore, respondent 4 can very well fall within ambit of ‘employer’ under the Act, 2013, thus, respondent 1 and respondent 4 being employer should have taken action as per the Act, 2013 and they have failed to discharge their duties.

Whether, the act committed by respondent 5 against petitioner would amount to sexual harassment within “workplace”?

The petitioner was working at J.P. Verma, P.G. Arts and Commerce College, Bilaspur where respondent 5 has visited and made certain obscene remarks against petitioner, therefore, as per the Section 2(o) of the Act the incident has taken at workplace where petitioner was working. The workplace has to be considered, the place of working of the victim not on the basis of offender, as such, it is held that petitioner was subjected to harassment at workplace. Therefore, the incident has taken place at workplace and since the incident has happened at workplace, either respondent 1 or respondent 4 should have taken action as per the judgment of Vishaka (supra) and the Act, 2013.

The Court thus directed “the Secretary / Director / their authorized persons from Higher Education or Principal of the College where the petitioner was posted, shall initiate proceedings against respondent No. 5 for registration of FIR on the basis of complaint made by the petitioner and materials collected by the facts finding Committee within two months from the date of receipt of copy of this order.”

[Savitri Tripathi v. State of Chhattisgarh, 2021 SCC OnLine Chh 3203, decided on 25-10-2021]


For Petitioner: Mr. Awadh Tripathi

For State: Mr. G.I. Sharan

For Respondent 4: Mr. Kishore Bhaduri and Mr. Sabyasachi Bhaduri

For Respondent 5: Shri Arvind Shrivastava

Arunima Bose, Editorial Assistant has reported this brief.

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