Intemperate language not sexual harassment: HC

Holding that a solitary allegation of intemperate language against a female employee does not constitute an offence under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, the Madras High Court quashed the sexual harassment charges against the Deputy Registrar of Trade Mark & Geographical Indication (GI) in Chennai raised by an Assistant Registrar.
Intemperate language not sexual harassment: HC
Madras High Court


When the plea moved by Deputy Registrar V Natarajan seeking to quash the order of the Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) and the local committee came up before it, a division bench comprising Justices M Sathyanarayanan and R Hemalatha said, “Though the Act is intended to have an equal standing for women in the workplace and to have a cordial workplace in which their dignity and self-respect are protected, it cannot be allowed to be misused by women to harass someone with an exaggerated or non-existent allegations.”

Every office has to maintain a certain decorum and women employees cannot be allowed to go scot-free without completing work, the bench said, adding that the administrative head has the right to extract work.

“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,” the bench added.

Also, pointing out that intemperate language used by Natarajan was the essence of Assistant Registrar Rema Srinivasan Iyengar’s first complaint other than the bias and favouritism that he allegedly exhibited, the bench said it did not warrant the constitution of an internal committee to probe the sexual harassment allegations.

“The defiant attitude of the complainant in not attending the committee hearing and the metamorphosis of the original complaint into a sexual harassment one before the local committee expose the real intentions of the complainant,” it said.

Had her complaint been true, the woman official should have faced the internal committee, said the court, noting that it was perplexing that she instead approached the State Women’s Commission and gave a different picture. “Thus, the decision of the internal committee in not taking cognisance of the local committee order was reasonable,” it said.

The Madras Bench of CAT erred in concluding that Natarajan was the employer and therefore, the internal committee would not have any relevance, while the local committee gave an erroneous decision with an exparte non-speaking order, the bench said, blaming the woman of making a futile attempt to settle personal score.

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