November 3, 2017
Shanta Kumar v. Centre of Scientific and Industrial Research & Ors.
Date of Judgment: October 31, 2017
Sexual Harassment at Workplace – : In this recent ruling, the Delhi High Court was confronted with an alleged case of sexual harassment at workplace. In the case, the Petitioner appealed against the order of Complaint Committee which had exonerated Respondent no. 3 in the case of charges of sexual harassment against him.
Brief Facts of the case– The Petitioner had alleged that while she was working at the laboratory, Respondent no.3 had entered the laboratory and stopped the machine and snatched the samples from the Petitioner and had thrown the materials. He had, thereafter, pushed the petitioner out of the laboratory and had locked the laboratory.
The Complaint Committee on examination of the case had concluded that the case was not of any sexual harassment but was a case of altercation in the background of the uncongenial environment prevailing in the division.
The Petitioner in appeal however submitted that the report of the Complaint Committee and the impugned order passed suffered from lack of application of mind as the respondent no.3 had held her hand and pushed her out of the laboratory was substantiated, yet the Complaint Committee had exonerated respondent no.3 of the said charges. The learned counsel submitted that any unwelcome physical contact would amount to sexual harassment and the Complaint Committee had erred in not appreciating the same.
Court’s Order and Observation
The Court made following observations in the case:
- That undoubtedly, physical contact or advances would constitute sexual harassment provided such physical contact is a part of the sexually determined behaviour. Such physical contact must be in the context of a behaviour which is sexually oriented. Plainly, a mere accidental physical contact, even though unwelcome, would not amount to sexual harassment.
- That a physical contact which has no undertone of a sexual nature and is not occasioned by the gender of the complainant may not necessarily amount to sexual harassment.
- That all physical contact cannot be termed as sexual harassment and only a physical contact or advances which are in the nature of an “unwelcome sexually determined behaviour” would amount to sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment at workplace
Sexual harassment at workplace is a very crucial concern for working women. The Supreme Court’s judgment in the case of Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan is the authority for determining sexual harassment cases in India. In this case the Apex Court had issued guidelines and norms for due observance at work places and also rendered an inclusive definition of the expression “sexual harassment” as- such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour as:
- Physical contact and advances;
- A demand or request for sexual favours;
- Sexually coloured remarks;
- Showing pornography;
- Any other unwelcome physical verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
The instant case further aids in contouring the law relating to sexual harassment at workplace in India. It opines that every physical contact cannot be termed as sexual harassment and only unwelcome sexually determined behavior would tantamount to sexual harassment.