This writ petition has been preferred by the petitioner challenging the order dated 05.10.2021 passed by the Central Administrative Tribunal, Kolkata Bench. The seminal question involved in the writ petition was whether the order of suspension inflicted upon the petitioner is sustainable in law and the committee constituted for summary trial about the allegations of sexual harassment against the petitioner has statutory force after enactment of The Sexual harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and amendment of relevant provisions of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965 in the light of the Act.
FACTS OF THE CASE
The petitioner was a teacher and he was appointed by the respondent “the school” as TGT (Trained Graduate Teacher)-Nepali. The principal of the school made a written complaint with the Officer-in-Charge of Ravangla Police Station to the effect that the school received complaints from several students against the petitioner alleging the commission of sexual harassment (molestation).
Thereafter, he set up an internal committee to enquire into the complaints. It was also stated in the complaint that around 67 students complained in writing with the said committee that they were personally harassed by the petitioner. On such allegations, the principal requested the Officer-in-Charge of the police station to take appropriate legal action against the petitioner. Based on the aforesaid complaint under Section 10 of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offenses Act, 2012(POCSO) was registered against the petitioner for investigation. The petitioner was arrested by the Investigating Officer. The petitioner was not informed about any disciplinary action taken against him, but from unofficial sources, he came to know that he was placed under suspension.
However, in reply to an email seeking information regarding his status as he intended to join his duties, the school informed him that he was placed under suspension with effect in terms of sub-rule (2) of Rule 10 of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965.
The petitioner being aggrieved by the order of suspension appealed to the Chairman of the school under Rule 23 of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control, and Appeal) Rules, 1965. By an order the respondent school authorities informed the petitioner that a committee was constituted for summary trial for inquiring into the allegations leveled against him dispensing with the regular disciplinary proceedings in terms of the Central Civil Services (Classification, Control and Appeal) Rules, 1965.
CONTENTIONS OF PETITIONER
The complaint against him is of the nature of sexual harassment in the workplace, the respondent school authorities should have constituted an internal complaints committee and such committee shall be deemed to be the inquiring authority appointed by the disciplinary authority.
Under such factual scenario, the petitioner assails the impugned order because the Learned Tribunal ought not to have directed the respondent authorities to proceed with the order of summary trial which has no legal force given the advent of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. The order of suspension inflicted by the respondent school authorities smacks of illegality as the suspension order was passed while the petitioner was detained in custody for 24 hours. It is not in dispute that the respondent authorities placed the petitioner under suspension within 24 hours of his detention. That being so, the order of suspension is illegal ab initio as it was made in gross violation of Rule 10(2) of the CCS CCA Rules.
The Court made the following observations:
- The committee formed by the respondent school authorities cannot be termed as an internal complaints committee as envisaged under the provisions of Section 4 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. Though the committee was constituted in terms of the notification dated 20.12.1993 issued by the school, but, the “committee dehors of the fundamental legal requirements under Section 4 of the Act”, has now lost its statutory force. The committee was constituted for summary trial without adhering to the mandatory requirements of the law, and the rules as quoted above lose their legal force. Therefore, viewed from all aspects, the impugned order passed by the Learned Tribunal holding the legality of the committee for summary trial is not sustainable in law.
- The respondent school authorities are directed to allow the petitioner to join his duties within one month from the date. They are also directed to pay all the back wages to the petitioner within two months from the date of joining of his duties.
Vaishali Jain, Advocate & Associate – POSH at Work