(Shanta Kumar vs Council Of Scientific And Industrial Research) Delhi High Court 14th June Judgment Article Featured Image - POSHequili

“An Accidental Touch, Even If Unwelcome, Does Not Count As Sexual Harassment.”- Delhi HC


In the case the petitioner challenged the proceedings conducted by the Complaint Committee (IC) regarding allegations of sexual harassment against Respondent No.3. Despite the Petitioner’s accusations, the Committee exonerated Respondent No.3, a decision upheld by the Disciplinary Authority. The petitioner contests this decision, citing procedural irregularities and alleged lack of application of mind by the authorities.

Facts of the case

Regarding an incident that occurred on April 29, 2005, the Petitioner filed a complaint, claiming that Respondent behaved aggressively, engaging in physical confrontation and making disparaging remarks. The Petitioner stated that the petitioner was working in the laboratory, Respondent No. 3 entered, stopped all the machines, pushed her out, and locked the laboratory. The petitioner claimed that the respondent used derogatory language. The committee investigated the complaint and determined that it was administrative and managerial in nature, rather than sexual. The Disciplinary Authority accepted this report, which was subsequently challenged. The Petitioner filed a writ petition with the Delhi High Court.

Arguments  by the Petitioner:

Three primary points were made by the petitioner:

  • Because many of the members of the Complaint Committee were subordinate to Respondent, the composition of the Committee did not follow government guidelines.
  • The ad hoc disciplinary authority’s appointment was erroneous and appeared to be biased in favor of the respondent.
  • The evidence was not sufficiently taken into account by the Complaint Committee and Disciplinary Authority, especially when it came to the physical contact that constituted sexual harassment.

Arguments by the Respondent:

The petitioner’s claims were refuted by the respondents:

  • Because there was no regular authority, the ad hoc disciplinary authority was appointed to maintain procedural continuity.
  • Based on the evidence that was presented, the Complaint Committee’s findings were related to administrative matters rather than sexual harassment.
  • Rather than being motivated by true harassment, the petitioner’s claims may have been sparked by conflicts in their personal or professional lives.

Legal Provisions and Cases Cited:

The court referred to guidelines on sexual harassment in the workplace, including those outlined in the Vishaka case (Vishaka & Ors. v. State of Rajasthan). It also cited relevant provisions from the Central Civil Services (Conduct) Rules, 1964, regarding sexual harassment and workplace conduct. These legal references informed the court’s decision-making process, ensuring compliance with established norms and precedents.

The Court’s Observation

The evidence was reviewed by the court, along with relevant legal provisions and guidelines regarding workplace sexual harassment. Although there was physical contact, it did not fit the legal definition of sexual harassment. Furthermore, the composition and procedures of the Complaint Committee were considered appropriate.

The Court concluded that any physical contact or advance constitutes sexual harassment if it occurs within a sexually oriented context. An accidental touch, even if unwelcome, does not count as sexual harassment. In this specific case, the incident would not be considered sexual harassment, even though it was derogatory.

The Court’s Decision

The petitioner’s challenge to the findings of the Complaint Committee and the decision made by the Disciplinary Authority was dismissed by the court based on its observations, as it was deemed without merit. In light of the situation, the appointment of an ad hoc disciplinary authority was appropriate. The court’s ruling, which stressed the requirement for proof of sexually determined behavior in order for it to qualify as harassment, was in line with both existing laws and earlier rulings.

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