A writ petition filed in the High Court of Kerala challenges Rule 7 (6) of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 (Rules), which bars legal representation in proceedings under the Act.
The Rule says : “The parties shall not be allowed to bring in any legal practitioner to represent them in their case at any stage of the proceedings before the complaints committee.”
The constitutionality of the Rule has been challenged by the Managing Director of an IT Company, who has been found to have sexually harassed a former employee by the Local Level Committee constituted under the Sexual Harassment Act. The Committee acted on an anonymous letter forwarded by the District Collector, which alleged that the former employee was sexually harassed.
The Committee conducted enquiry and made a recommendation to the District Collector that the MD was liable to compensate the employee by paying an amount of Rs.19 lakhs. The District Collector endorsed the recommendations and ordered its implementation.
The petitioner contended that the inquiry by the Committee was in violation of principles of natural justice. Lack of legal representation caused prejudice to him, contended the petitioner. The findings of the Committee were challenged as biased and unfounded.
The petitioner challenged the bar on legal representation as unreasonable, arbitrary and violative of his constitutional right to fair trial, leading to infringement of rights under Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India.
The petition was admitted by Justice Raja Vijayaraghavan. The report of the Committee and the consequent order passed by the District Collector were stayed.