The Supreme Court has said that sexual harassment at work violates women’s fundamental right to equality, their right to live with dignity and to practise any profession, Live Law reported on Wednesday.
The top court made the observation on February 25 while upholding a verdict of the Madhya Pradesh High Court cancelling the transfer of a bank employee who had accused a senior colleague of sexual harassment, according to PTI.
“Sexual harassment at the workplace is an affront to the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under Articles 14 and 15 and her right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution as well as her right to practise any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business,” the bench said.
The woman, who worked as a branch manager in Indore, said she was transferred to Jabalpur after she reported certain irregularities to her superiors. She said that one of her senior colleagues would ask her to come to his house late at night even when there was no urgent matter to be discussed.
“There can be no manner of doubt that the respondent [woman officer] has been victimized,” the top court bench comprising Justices DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi said. “This is symptomatic of a carrot and stick policy adopted to suborn the dignity of a woman who is aggrieved by unfair treatment at her workplace.” The bench observed that the woman’s transfer was unjustified.
In its judgement, the top court noted that the woman had not appeared before the bank’s internal complaints committee and said that there was a “fundamental defect” in the committee’s constitution. The bank’s lawyer, however, told the court that the committee had found the woman’s allegations to be false.
The top court directed the bank to send the woman back to the Indore branch and let her work there for a year. “Upon the expiry of the period of one year, if any administrative exigency arises the competent authority of the bank would be at liberty to take an appropriate decision in regard to her place of posting independently,” it said.