The Supreme Court on Friday said that it was important for the judiciary to uphold the spirit of the right against sexual harassment, Live Law reported. The court said that the right is a part of a person’s right to life and dignity guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The court made the observation while hearing a case relating to accusations of sexual misconduct against a Border Security Force head constable. The complainant, a constable at the Border Security Force, has accused his senior of sodomising him in May 2006.
On Friday, the Supreme Court set aside an order of the Calcutta High Court passed in December 2018 that had quashed disciplinary proceedings against the head constable and reinstated him in service, PTI reported.
The High Court had quashed the proceedings on the grounds that a commandant of the Border Security Force, who had sought additional record evidence while carrying out the disciplinary proceedings, did not have the jurisdiction to do so.
The High Court had also said that a Summary Security Force Court, which initially heard the case, had failed to record reasons for its verdict.
However, the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice DY Chandrachud noted that the High Court’s verdict was part of a “rising trend” of “hyper-technical interpretations of the applicable service rules”.
The court also held that an alleged discrepancy about the date of the incident was a minor one, as the assault took place soon after midnight on the next day.
“Deeming such a trivial aspect to be of monumental relevance, while invalidating the entirety of the disciplinary proceedings against the respondent and reinstating him to his position renders the complainant’s remedy at nought,” the Supreme Court observed.
The bench urged courts to interpret service rules and regulations governing sexual harassment at the workplace in a manner that ensures “procedural and substantive justice” to all the parties involved.
“It is also important to be mindful of the power dynamics that are mired in sexual harassment at the workplace,” the court said, according to Live Law. “There are several considerations and deterrents that a subordinate aggrieved of sexual harassment has to face when they consider reporting sexual misconduct of their superior.”