court in a matter of sexual harassment

Calling of documents by police/court in a matter of sexual harassment

As has been recently reported by the Mumbai Mirror on 27th August, 2016, the Assistant Vice President of Human Resources for Max Life Insurance, Vijay Chaudhary, has been charged under Sections 354A and 509 of the Indian Penal Code for misbehaving and sexually harassing a former employee. As reported, it seems, Mr. Chaudhary was staring at the lady and when she asked how she could help him, he said, “You are looking sexy and gorgeous”. It also appears from the report that he got furious when the lady asked him to behave himself, got abusive and threatened that he would “fix her”. She has claimed that she had complained to the company about mental harassment and she and her family followed up on the same several times, with no response from the company and as a result she had to register an FIR at the Bhandup police station. The company has reportedly denied the allegations stating that the company had set up a committee to inquire into the matter and the committee found the complaint untenable. The complainant has resigned stating that situations were created whereby she was forced to leave, however, the company has denied it.

It will be interesting to see how this matter goes forward. It is unclear whether the complaint filed with the company was one of mental harassment only and an ethics committee (or such other committee) inquired into the matter or the complaint was one under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prohibition, Prevention and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“Act”) and the internal complaints committee (“ICC”) (to be constituted under Section 4 of the Act) looked into the matter. If the complaint was heard as per provisions of the Act, then the police or the court may ask the company for a copy of the report prepared by the ICC, upon conclusion of inquiry, to determine the nature of complaint filed and the conclusion reached. By virtue of Section 91 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the company is bound to provide a copy of this report (and/or any other document) that documents the lady’s complaint and the decision of the company for analysis by the police/court. Even though Section 16 of the Act provides that all documents in relation to a matter of sexual harassment have to be kept confidential and are not required to be provided to anyone even upon filing of an RTI, this provision does not apply to the powers of police and the court under Section 91 of CrPC and they can still seek any information/document from anyone to investigate/inquire into a matter in a fair manner.

– Adv. Shivangi Prasad – Corporate Lawyer, External Member & Trainer, Head – Legal & Compliance, Partner 

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