Unheard Claim Of A Woman Against Sexual Harassment At Workplace Can Mute Others In The Future: Observes Delhi HC
The Delhi High Court has observed that an unheard claim of a woman against sexual harassment at workplace can mute others in the future.
It further added that the issue of sexual harassment at workplace are extremely critical which should be addressed and resolved by the concerned officials.
The bench of Justice Chandra Dhari Singh observed thus "The issue of sexual harassment at workplace is not limited to the four walls of an office premises but also extends to the officials outside the premises who are abusing their power and capacity as a superior to influence a junior and a newcomer by making unwelcoming advances, requesting sexual favours, making physical contact or other sexually determined behavior."
"These issues are of extremely critical nature which have to be addressed and resolved by the concerned officials who have the authority to adjudicate upon them. An unheard claim of a woman against sexual harassment at workplace can mute others in the future.", the Court noted.
The Court made these observations while dealing with a plea by a woman challenging the order passed by the General Manager, Bank of Maharashtra, New Delhi whereby her services were terminated.
The petitioner was working in the Regional Office of the Bank of Maharashtra.
The Senior Manager made a complaint against the petitioner alleging that she had removed his credit card, made purchases of a gold chain and a ring, and returned the same amount of cash, which was found lying on the table of the Manager on the next day alongwith an anonymous letter.
The petitioner stated that the Senior Manager had himself given her the credit card to purchase the aforesaid gold chain and ring as a favour, which she purchased and immediately handed over to him.
Thereafter a disciplinary inquiry was conducted whereupon the Disciplinary Authority, imposed the penalty of dismissal from service upon the petitioner.
The decision of the Disciplinary Authority came to be upheld by the Appellate Authority.
Advocates Sanjay Sharawat and Digvijay Rai appeared for the petitioner whereas Advocates Soumitra Chatterjee and Sriparna Chatterjee appeared for Respondents.
The Court noted that the petitioner was not formally intimated about the complaint against her until the suspension order was passed against her.
The Court also noted that the Disciplinary Authority while imposing the major penalty has failed to give any reason for decision to dismiss the petitioner from services.
"While imposing the major punishment, the Disciplinary Authority ought to have applied its mind and recorded the reasons for imposing the same dismissing the petitioner from services alongwith the disqualification from future employment.", the Court held.
The Court further noted that the petitioner addressed her complaints against the Senior Manager pertaining to unwelcoming advances which she had time and again faced however, at no point any inquiry was ever conducted into these communications/complaints.
The Court observed that "The petitioner wrote the communications explaining the advances of unwelcoming and sexual nature made by the Senior Manager towards her however, at no point any inquiry was ever conducted into these communications/complaints and instead, in the Inquiry Report, it was found that the Presenting Officer had blatantly rejected the allegations and dismissed them as being fraud, false and baseless without even conducting a single hearing on the same and without even making a preliminary inquiry into it."
The Court further noted that in the entire matter there was no evidence or material on record to conclusively establish beyond doubt that the allegations levelled against the petitioner were proved.
Thus the Court set aside the Order impugned. The Court directed the Respondent-Bank to take all necessary steps to reinstate the petitioner with all consequential benefits.
The Court also ordered payment of Rs 1 Lakh compensation to the petitioner since she has been only able to have her grievances redressed and get the relief she had sought after over 10 years of pending litigation.
Cause Title- W.P.(C) 4213/2011 (Neutral Citation No. 2022/DHC/005857)