misuse of power by IC

When the issues addressed in both the IC and the ongoing criminal prosecution are identical, and if the petitioners were exonerated by the IC then allowing criminal proceedings to continue would amount to an abuse of power. – Delhi High Court


 X v. State (Govt. of NCT of Delhi) and Y v. State and Anr.  (W.P. (Crl.) 2802/2019, W.P. (Crl.) 3005/2019 and Crl. M.A. 3961/2020) was filed before the Delhi High Court  to quash an FIR under Sections 354A (sexual harassment) and 506 IPC (criminal intimidation).

It was alleged by the Respondent No.2 (Original Complainant) (henceforth “Respondent”), a lawyer working as trainee that she experienced sexual harassment at workplace i.e., Head Office, Maruti Suzuki India Limited (henceforth “MSIL”) and there was threat to her safety and life from the two Petitioners and one other employee of the legal team of the organisation. The allegations involved physical contact and advances and non-verbal conduct of sexual nature. The Respondent had raised the issue to the Department Manager then to the Division Head, but no action was taken, and she was forced to quit. She then discussed the issue with two other members of the legal team after which she received a call from the Internal Committee (IC), but no action was taken.

An unknown person came to the Respondent’s PG and asked her home address but did not disclose his identity and the next day, someone from a lawyer’s office went to her house to ask about her details. She then contacted the IC and left the PG when one person started to chase her. Apprehended about her life and no action being taken, the Respondent filed an FIR under Sections 354A/506 IPC.

Submissions of Petitioner No. 1:

The Respondent had sent an email with her resume to join as an intern in the organisation and the legal advisor had orally instructed the Petitioner to accommodate the Respondent as a legal trainee. She was asked to join via email and categorically informed that she will be working as an intern/trainee for a few months. She was working with another employee and was never associated with the Petitioner. The Respondent’s internship ended in August, and she never made any complaint. Her training certificate was also issued on completion without any protest.

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An anonymous complaint at NCW was filed against the Petitioner and other employees in October alleging sexual harassment and anonymous email was sent to the Chairman of MSIL. Then the Respondent registered a FIR.

The Petitioner No. 1 submitted that the FIR was bogus and false and to tarnish his reputation. He denied making any calls or sending her inappropriate messages. There was no prima facie case made out and the police had not submitted any charge-sheet after the conclusion of the investigation.

The IC of MSIL was constituted based on the FIR and a detailed and exhaustive inquiry was conducted. The Petitioner has submitted a representation and denied all charges before both the police and the IC. The IC decided the matter on merits and exonerated the Petitioner from all charges and allegations.

Submissions of Petitioner No. 2:

The Petitioner stated that the Respondent joined as a trainee and assisted him in labour/industrial dispute matters from November to February. There was no interaction between them post February.

The Respondent used to sit on the third floor while he sat on the first floor, and he was not aware of the Respondent’s training as he left the company in June. During her training period, she never reported or complained about any unwelcoming behaviour.

An anonymous complaint at NCW was filed against the Petitioner and other employees in October alleging sexual harassment and anonymous email was sent to the Chairman of MSIL. Then the Respondent registered a FIR.

The Petitioner No. 2 submitted that the FIR was based on false and frivolous complaint made by the Respondent with mala fide intention 6 months after leaving the company. No charge-sheet was filed by the IO and the IC has exonerated the Petitioner as the Respondent stated that she did not wish to pursue the matter with IC.

Arguments of the Petitioner No. 1:

The counsel argued that the criminal prosecution cannot be continued on the same allegations after IC has exonerated the Petitioner. The Respondent did not cooperate with the IC despite several reminders as the sole purpose was to harass the Petitioner No.1. No prima facie case was made out against the Petitioner.

Arguments of the Petitioner No. 2:

The counsel argued that after a thorough investigation the IC exonerated the Petitioner No. 2. The Respondent has only named the Petitioner No.2 and has not mentioned the act of sexual harassment with substantiating it under S. 354A IPC.

The Respondent has not cooperated with the IC or produced witnesses in her favour. There is no incriminating evidence to prove sexual harassment or criminal intimidation by the Petitioner No. 2. Further, she never complained about the same during her internship and has filed the complaint only after 6 months of leaving the company. The FIR is motivated and malicious and filed to abuse the process of law.

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Arguments of the State (Respondent No.1):

The Additional Standing Counsel filed the status report and argued on the same. It provided the findings of the IC do not in any manner affect the prosecution arising out of the FIR.


Whether the after exoneration by the IC, the Petitioners are still liable to face prosecution arising out of the FIR?


The Court relied on Ashoo Surendranath Tewari v. CBI, ((2020) 9 SCC 636) which also referred to P.S. Rajya v. State of Bihar, ((1996) 9 SCC 1)) and Radheshyam Kejriwal V State of W. Bengal & another ((2011) 3 SCC 58)) to observe that “the standard of proof in a departmental proceeding being based on preponderance of probability is somewhat lower than the standard of proof in a criminal proceeding where the case has to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

After perusing the final report of the IC constituted as per the mandate of Section 4 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and on the basis of the FIR, the Court observed that the statements of the Petitioners, Respondent and more than 20 witness were recorded in camera. The Respondent via email stated that she did not wish to pursue with the complaint.

The issues in IC proceedings and criminal prosecution are identical and the IC proceedings were conducted in compliance of the provisions of the Act. In these circumstances the criminal prosecution cannot be continued particularly when the Petitioners were exonerated by the IC. The proceedings arising out of the FIR cannot be sustained by law. If the investigation/prosecution is allowed, it would be an abuse of the process of law.

The FIR was registered after the Respondent left the company and only mentions general allegations without specific details.

The Supreme Court in State of Haryana v. Ch. Bhajan Lal, ((1992) Supp 1 SCC 335) had laid down guidelines for the High Courts to exercise its inherent powers under S. 482 CrPC. It observed that this extraordinary power should be exercised sparingly and with great care and caution to prevent abuse of the process of the court or to secure ends of justice. The same was reiterated in Sushil Suri v. Central Bureau of Investigation and another ((2011) 5 SCC 708)

Final Order:

If the consequential criminal proceedings after being exonerated by the IC are allowed, it would be a misuse of power and exercise in futility. The petitions were allowed and the FIR under Sections 354A/506 IPC was quashed along with the consequential proceedings including judicial proceedings.

– by Lakshita Bhati

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