Don't turn probe into punishment: Supreme Court on harassment at workplace

Says courts must desist from technical interpretation of service rules

Don't turn probe into punishment:  Supreme Court on harassment at workplace

Photo for representational purpose only.

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 4

The Supreme Court has asked courts not to resort to hyper-technical interpretation of service rules and regulations on the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace, saying the “transformative legislation” may not come to the aid of victims if the appellate mechanisms turn the process into a punishment.

“It is important that courts uphold the spirit of the right against sexual harassment, which is vested in all persons as part of their right to life and right to dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution. It is also important to be mindful of the power dynamics that are mired in sexual harassment at the workplace,” a Bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud said on Friday.

Ensure justice to all parties

We implore courts to interpret service rules and statutory regulations governing the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace in a manner that metes out procedural and substantive justice to all the parties. — SC Bench led by Justice DY Chandrachud

Deciding a case under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013, the Bench — which also included Justice AS Bopanna — said courts should interpret service rules and statutory regulations on sexual harassment at the workplace in a manner that metes out procedural and substantive justice.

Disapproving of the rising trend of invalidating proceedings inquiring into sexual misconduct by resorting to hyper-technical interpretation of service rules, the Bench said, “We implore courts to interpret service rules and statutory regulations governing the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace in a manner that metes out procedural and substantive justice to all the parties.”

Upholding the charges of sodomy against an officer of the Border Security Force (BSF) and the punishment of forfeiture of five years’ services for the purpose of promotion and seven years’ service for the purpose of pension, the top court reversed the order of the Calcutta High Court. The HC had set aside the BSF DG’s order on hyper-technical grounds.

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