DK District Leprosy Officer suspended for sexual harassment, KAT stays order

The case came in public domain after some videos and photographs went viral on social media on November 25

November 26, 2021 05:31 pm | Updated 05:40 pm IST - MANGALURU

Karnataka Government has suspended Dakshina Kannada District Leprosy Officer Rathnakar on the charge of sexually harassing a woman contract employee working in his office.

However, the Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal, headed by its Chairman Justice R.B. Budihal, has stayed the order of suspension.

Following receipt of information of the alleged sexual harassment, Deputy Commissioner K.V. Rajendra directed the District Health and Family Welfare Officer M. Kishor Kumar to conduct an inquiry.

The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of the department, which is constituted under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, carried out a probe and submitted its report to the Deputy Commissioner on August 28. Following receipt of the report, the Principal Secretary, Department of Health and Family Welfare, on November 8 passed an order to keep Dr. Rathnakar under suspension and placed him in lien against the vacant post of Medical Officer of Community Health Centre, Gurmitkal, Yadgir district, pending outcome of the disciplinary action.

Dr. Rathnakar filed a writ petition in the High Court of Karnataka questioning the report of the committee. He contended that in the absence of a written complaint, the committee had no jurisdiction to initiate a probe. He said that a message received by the Deputy Commissioner on WhatsApp has been treated as the complaint by the committee.

The single judge bench of the High Court, headed by Justice S.G. Pandit, stayed the report on November 18 for eight weeks.

Dr. Rathnakar placed the order of the High Court before the Karnataka State Administrative Tribunal. On November 24, Justice Budihal stayed the order of suspension till further notice and posted the matter for further hearing on December 2.

The alleged sexual harassment came to light after videos and photographs of Dr. Rathnakar’s conduct with the woman employee went viral on social media on November 25.

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