Supreme Court condemns red tape in sexual harassment cases

Don’t make process a punishment for victims, court says.

December 04, 2021 10:58 pm | Updated 11:42 pm IST - NEW DELHI:

The Supreme Court pointed out the power dynamics at play in a workplace.

The Supreme Court pointed out the power dynamics at play in a workplace.

The right against sexual harassment at workplace is part of the fundamental right to a dignified life and it takes a lot of courage for a subordinate to overcome the fear to speak up against a lewd superior, the Supreme Court has held in a judgment.

A Bench led by Justice D.Y. Chandrachud said the courts should not be “hyper-technical” while dealing with sexual harassment cases, and be aware of the odds that a survivor has to overcome to bring to light the sexual misconduct.

“It is important to be mindful of the power dynamics that are mired in sexual harassment at the workplace. There are several considerations and deterrents that a subordinate aggrieved of sexual harassment has to face when they consider reporting sexual misconduct of their superior,” Justice Chandrachud wrote.

The judgment highlighted a rising trend of invalidation of proceedings inquiring into sexual misconduct on “hyper-technical interpretations of the applicable service rules”.

At times, court turns the legal process into a punishment in cases under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013.

This Act is a transformative legislation, which penalises several misconducts of a sexual nature and imposes a mandate on public and private organisations to create adequate mechanisms for redressal.

“It is important that courts uphold the spirit of the right against sexual harassment, which is vested in all persons as a part of their right to life and right to dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution,” the apex court underscored.

The case involved an appeal filed against the Calcutta High Court decision to quash a sexual harassment proceedings initiated on the complaint of a BSF constable against his superior.

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