Telecom Company Vodafone has been slapped with a fine of Rs. 50,000 for its failure to constitute a Complaints Committee as required by the Supreme Court in the case of Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan.
While noting that such a Committee was in place currently, a Bombay High Court Bench comprising Justice A.A. Sayed and Justice M.S. Karnik observed, "Though we are not inclined to direct payment of compensation to the Petitioner by the Respondent No.1 as indicated earlier, we do note here that the Respondent No.1 had not followed the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in Vishaka as there was no Complaints Committee constituted by the Respondent No.1 at the relevant time."
It then directed the Company to pay the amount to the War Widow's Association, New Delhi, within a period of six weeks.
The Court was hearing a Petition filed by an ex-employee who had alleged to have been terminated from service in August, 2000 after she refused to give in to demands of sexual favors by her Chief Operating Officer. She had further alleged that her immediate senior and another executive had aided the COO in pressurizing her.
The Petitioner brought to the notice of the Court the fact that she had communicated her grievance to several functionaries within the Company, but to no avail.
She had, therefore, submitted that the Company had "deliberately flouted the rules prescribed by the Apex Court and failed to implement the guidelines laid down as law towards protection of women from sexual harassment at workplace and failed to provide grievance procedure for redressal of complaint of the Petitioner against sexual harassment at workplace".
Thereafter, the Petitioner had sought a compensation of Rs. 1 crore for non-constitution of the Complaints Committee by the Company, in accordance with the law laid down in the Vishaka case.
The Respondent, on the other hand, had denied the allegations, contending that "false and baseless allegations" were being made by her as an afterthought.
The Court, however, opined that the fact of the occurrence of sexual harassment was still disputed and that it was not possible for the Court, in exercise of its Writ jurisdiction, to rule on such disputed questions of facts. It further noted that the Petitioner had not prayed for constitution of a Complaints Committee to look into her allegations.
The Court then observed that even of it is assumed that the Petitioner had complained of sexual harassment only after the termination of her employment, "nothing prevented the Respondent No.1 from inquiring into her grievance even after her termination".