It is most heart warming to note that Delhi High Court in a latest, landmark and extremely laudable judgment titled Anita Suresh vs. Union of India & Ors in W.P.(C) 5114/2015 delivered on July 9, 2019 has rightly gone the extra mile and imposed Rs. 50,000 cost on a woman for false sexual harassment plea. The blatant misuse of laws against men is all too well known even though much as woman activists among others would like to gloss it over on one ground or the other! But this latest extraordinary judgment has served to send a very loud and stern message to all women that they dare not try to misuse laws against men without any valid cause and if they dare to do so then they should be prepared to face the music and cough up a huge amount as fine! From now onwards, women must always ensure before approaching courts that their own hands are clean and if they still don’t care then well they might find themselves landing in a hot soup as we see has happened with the petitioner in this commendable case!
To start with, the ball is set rolling in para 1 of this notable judgment by Justice JR Midha of the Delhi High Court wherein it is pointed out that, “The petitioner has challenged the order dated 20th January, 2012 of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). The petitioner is seeking a direction to respondent No. 2 to withhold the retirement benefits of respondent No. 3 to initiate independent departmental enquiry against respondent No. 3 and to also prosecute respondent No. 3.”
To recapitulate, it is then outlined in para 2 that, “The petitioner was working as an Assistant Director with ESI Corporation in Manesar, Gurgaon in July 2011. On 08th July, 2011, the petitioner made a written complaint to the Director General of ESI Corporation alleging sexual harassment by respondent No. 3. According to the petitioner, respondent No. 3 misbehaved and made attempts of sexual advances. The petitioner reported following two incidents dated 07th July, 2011 in the complaint:-
(i) ‘Yesterday when I was seated with my colleagues on the 1st floor of the building, Sh. Verma came and commented indicating sexual advances. I cannot for the reasons of modesty bring on papers the filthy language he uses for me’.
(ii) ‘Yesterday in the presence of my staff and other members he asked me to come alone to check the shortcomings of the male toilet when nobody is there and I will follow you soon’.”
To be sure, para 3 then states that, “Respondent No. 1 constituted an Internal Complaints Committee to examine the complaint of the petitioner. Respondent No. 3 appeared before the Committee and denied all the allegations made by the petitioner. According to respondent No. 3, the petitioner made the complaint because of the grudge against him due to certain official work disposed by him in her absence.” Para 4 then reveals that, “The Committee examined the petitioner as well as respondent No. 3. The Committee examined eight witnesses namely Rashmi Kapoor (O.S.), Lakhan (Supervisor Housekeeping), Rajender Yadav (SSO), Prasanna (Staff Nurse), Hema (Staff Nurse), Pradeep Kataria (Nursing Orderly), Jai Bhagwan (Nursing Orderly) and Kalpana (Dietician).”
Be it noted, para 5 then envisages that, “The Committee submitted its report on 20th January, 2012, in which it observed that the exact content of communication of the incident dated 07th July, 2011 could not be established. The Committee gave benefit of doubt to respondent No. 3 and recommended relocating both the petitioner and respondent No. 3 from their present posting.”
Needless to say, para 6 then brings out that, “Learned counsel for the petitioner urged at the time of the hearing that the findings of the Committee are erroneous and unjustified. It is submitted that the petitioner had proved by sufficient evidence that respondent No. 3 misbehaved and made attempts of sexual advances against the petitioner on 07th July, 2011 mentioned in the written complaint on 08th July, 2011. Respondent No. 3 pressurized the petitioners to withdraw her complaint whereupon a warning was issued to him on 04th November, 2011. The transfer of both the parties to different places was not a justified penalty to the respondent No. 3.”
As things stand, para 7 then discloses that, “Learned counsel for the respondent No. 1 urged at the time of the hearing that respondent No. 1 transferred both the petitioner and the respondent No. 3 from their posting. It was further submitted that respondent No. 3 superannuated on 28th February, 2015.”
Furthermore, it is then disclosed in para 8 that, “Vide order dated 28th March, 2019, this Court directed the employer, ESI Corporation to produce the original relevant records which were produced on 09th April, 2019 and have been examined by this Court.”
Moving on, it is then illustrated in para 9 that, “The petitioner made the complaint dated 08th July, 2011 against the respondent no. 3 which is reproduced hereunder:-
The Director General,
Hqrs. Office, CIG Marg,
New Delhi – 02.
Sub: Sexual harassment by Sh. O.P. Verma, Dy Director, ESI Hospital, Manesar, Haryana.
I am posted as Assistant Director in the office of ESI Hospital, Manesar. In the same office another officer Sh. O.P. Verma, Dy. Director is seated in the adjoining room where I work. For some time passed Sh. O.P. Verma has been misbehaving with me and makes attempts of sexual advances. It was only yesterday when I was seated with my colleagues on the 1st floor of the building. Sh. Verma came and commented indicating sexual advances.
I cannot for the reasons of modesty bring on papers the filthy language he uses for me. Yesterday in the presence of my staff and other members he asked me to come alone to check the shortcomings of the male toilet when nobody is there and I will follow you soon.
I am to request you to safeguard my honour and take necessary action against him. I will explain the earlier instances of harassment as and when the matter will be investigated.
This matter has also been brought to the notice of the Medical Superintendent in earlier and in the afternoon of 07.07.2011 also.
Yours faithfully, Signed/-
( Anita Suresh)
ESI Hospital, Manesar.’”
To say the least, para 10 then states that, “As per the complaint dated 08th July, 2011 of the petitioner, the respondent no. 3 made comments indicating sexual advances against the petitioner who was sitting with her colleagues on the first floor of the building on 7th July, 2011. The second incident mentioned in the complaint is that the respondent told the petitioner to come alone in the male toilet to check the shortcomings in the presence of the staff and other members.”
More significantly, para 11 then discloses that, “The Committee examined the petitioner who could not recollect the names of any of the persons present at the time of the aforesaid incidents. The petitioner was shown the relevant papers relating to the staff members present on that day but still she could not recollect the names. The petitioner stated that she confided the incidents to Rashmi Kapoor (O.S.) on the same day after the incident. The Committee examined Rashmi Kapoor who stated that she was not present at the time of incident. However, she stated that the petitioner told her that the attitude of respondent No. 3 towards the petitioner was not good. She further stated that the petitioner told her that respondent No. 3 made two inappropriate comments against her. However, these two comments were not stated by the petitioner in her statement to the Committee.
What’s more, para 12 then points out that, “The Committee examined Lakhan (Supervisor Housekeeping) who stated that the petitioner was matching the goods with the list and he did not witness any incident on 07th July, 2011 as alleged by the petitioner.” Also, para 13 then reveals that, “The Committee examined Rajender Yadav (SSO) who was present at the time of incident and he stated that there was no altercation between the petitioner and respondent No. 3.” All this certainly serves to weaken the petitioner’s claims and the serious charges which she leveled against the respondent No. 3.
Going forward, para 14 then further discloses that, “The Committee examined Prasanna (Staff Nurse) who stated that the petitioner had normal relations with respondent No. 3 who never commented on her in her presence.” Para 15 then also makes it clear that, “The Committee examined Staff Nurses Hema (Nursing Orderly), Pradeep Kataria (Nursing Orderly), Jai Bhagwan (Nursing Orderly) and Kalpana (Dietician) who did not witness any incident on 07th July, 2011.”
Not stopping here, it is then brought out in para 16 that, “The Committee examined respondent No. 3 who denied all the allegations of sexual harassment made by the petitioner. He stated that he brought the absence of soap in the male toilet to the notice of the petitioner. He further stated that his remarks were misinterpreted and taken totally out of context. He further stated that the petitioner made complaint against him due to a grudge which was the result of certain official work disposed by him in petitioner’s absence.”
To put things in perspective, para 17 then enunciates that, “On careful consideration of the record of the inquiry proceedings, this Court is of the view that the complaint dated 08th July, 2011 of the petitioner appears to be false. The complaint dated 08thJuly, 2011 contains two incidents out of which the first incident was in the presence of the staff and other members. During the inquiry proceedings, the petitioner could not give the name of any person present at the time of the incident. The petitioner was shown the record of the staff persons present on duty on the date of the incident but still she could not recollect the names of any colleague/staff member. It is not believable that the petitioner would not remember the names of any colleague/staff member. The Committee examined all the persons who were on duty on that day but no persons supported the allegations of the petitioner. The petitioner has not mentioned the alleged comments of respondent No. 3 in the complaint on the ground of modesty. The petitioner did not even disclose the alleged comments before the Committee. Nor reason or justification was been given by the petitioner for not disclosing the same before the Committee. The entire complaint of the petitioner appears to be false and has been filed with some ulterior motive.”
It cannot be lost on us that delving deeper, para 18 then brings to light that, “The record produced by the respondent No. 5 contains the service record of the petitioner. The petitioner joined ESI Corporation as an Insurance Inspector on 24thSeptember, 1997. On 15th February, 1998, the petitioner was issued a charge sheet for major penalty proceeding for negligently surveying two firms ignoring vital information and suppressing material information while submitting the survey reports. Vide order dated 23rdOctober, 2001, the Insurance Commissioner took the view that the petitioner had only put one year of service in the Corporation and no malafide intention was proved and therefore, a lenient view was taken and the penalty of ‘Censure’ was imposed upon her. On 03rd March, 2006, the petitioner was issued a charge sheet for major penalty proceeding by Regional Office, Delhi on the allegations that during her posting in Legal Branch as an Insurance Inspector for the period from 22nd March, 2004 to 12th July, 2004, the petitioner had exhibited gross misconduct as she failed to follow the reasonable order of her superiors and exhibited lack of devotion towards duty. Vide order dated 22nd September, 2009, the Insurance Commissioner observed that the conduct of the petitioner was unbecoming of a Corporation employee and imposed the penalty of reduction pay by one stage for one year. The petitioner filed an appeal which was rejected by the Appellate Authority vide order dated 27th October, 2010 and thereafter, she preferred a revision petition which was also rejected. This rejection order was further challenged by the petitioner before this Court in W.P. (C) 8529/2011 which was dismissed by this Court vide order dated 24th November, 2011. On 13thJuly, 2011, the Medical Superintendent of ESIC, Hospital, Manesar, Haryana, Dr. Archana Rani gave a written memorandum to the petitioner who was posted in the hospital as an Assistant Director to show cause as to why the action should not be taken against her for insubordination and gross misconduct. The above mentioned incidents show that the petitioner did not have a clean service record.”
Most importantly, it is then held in para 19 that, “There is no merit in this writ petition which is dismissed with cost of Rs. 50,000/- to be deposited by the petitioner with the Delhi High Court Advocates Welfare Trust within four weeks.” Thus we see that all the tall claims made by the petitioner falls flat and fails to impress the Delhi High Court as she could not produce anything substantial to back her tall claims against the respondent No. 3! This alone explains why it is then ruled in the next para 20 that, “Respondent No. 2 is at liberty to initiate appropriate action against the petitioner for filing false complaint against the respondent No. 3 in accordance with law.”
To conclude, the Delhi High Court has acted most wisely by deciding to not allow the petitioner to go scot free. She willingly decided to defame the respondent No. 3 without any concrete ground in front of the whole society. So she had to be taken to task for it! This alone explains why the Delhi High Court imposed Rs 50,000 cost on petitioner for false sexual harassment plea. Very rightly so! Not just this, she should be jailed also for at least six months or an year so that the right message goes across to all women that they dare not misuse the sexual harassment laws against men whenever they want at their own whims and fancies! We all saw how recently even the incumbent CJI Ranjan Gogoi was not spared when a subordinate women employee levelled grave charges but failed to prove anything in front of the in-house Committee set up by the Supreme Court under the chairmanship of Justice Sharad A Bobde and so palapably the CJI Ranjan Gogoi had to be exonerated! Law must apply to erring women also now! This is what the Delhi High Court has rightly sought to do here! No denying or disputing it!
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.