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The Sexual Harassment Act, 2013 Cannot be a weapon for claims of misconduct or non-existent allegations: Madras High Court

Team SoOLEGAL 24 Feb 2020 6:10pm

The Sexual Harassment Act, 2013 Cannot be a weapon for claims of misconduct or non-existent allegations: Madras High Court

The Madras High Court on 22.02.2020 held that women employees are not permitted to misuse the Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and harass any individual with ‘exaggerated or non- existent allegations’. 

Every office has to maintain a certain decorum...The administrative head or the chief has every right to extract work and he/she has his/her own discretion and prerogatives. If a woman employee is discriminated against due to her inefficiency or for any other official reasons, the recourse for her is not the one taken by this complainant,” a division bench comprising of justice M. Sathyanarayanan and justice R. Hemlatha quoted. 

Although the Act is intended to have equal standing for women in the workplace and a cordial workplace in which their integrity and self-respect are preserved, it is not possible for women workers to go unpunished without completing their assignments, the judges said.

Observing that a lone allegation of an intemperate language against a woman employee does not constitute an offense under the law against sexual harassment of women in the workplace, the bench quashed a Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) order against V Natarajan, deputy trademark registrar and GI, Chennai, claiming that the court had erred in reaching the decision. The case concerns a complaint made by a woman officer on 2 December 2013, the registrar and general controller of trademarks and GI, patents and design, about Natarajan's' high-handedness' and the' hurt to self-respect because of his arrogant behaviour.'

 The High Court of Madras further noted:

At the same time, the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 also brought in two provisions in order not to deter women from filing complaints. One was that their inability to prove a complaint will not render it false. Secondly, the malicious intent has to be specifically established before disciplinary action is recommended against the complainant.”

The court found the Local Committee's findings unconstitutional, and ruled that the complainant was not an employer. It further claimed that "This letter fits in with the description of a complaint of sexual harassment and contains all the ingredients needed to assess an offense “The Act”. However, it lacks details of the alleged incidents.”

Section 3(2) of the Act was reviewed and the court held that “a solitary allegation of intemperate language against a female employee does not constitute an offense under the Act”.

The Hon’ble court further commented that “The complainant, it appears, made a futile attempt to settle her personal score with the petitioner. Every office has to maintain certain decorum and women employees cannot be allowed to go scot-free without completing their assignments. The Administrative Head or the Chief has every right to extract work and he or she has his or her own discretion and prerogatives. If a woman employee is discriminated against due to her inefficiency or for any other official reasons, the recourse for her is not the one taken by this complainant.”

It is not permissible for women to misuse the Act to harass someone with exaggerated or non-existent allegations.





Tagged: Madras High Court   Sexual Harassment Act   justice M. Sathyanarayanan   justice R. Hemlatha  
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