"In the present case, the manner in which the school authorities have handled the number of sexual harassment complaints received from young girls and their parents, really shocks our conscience", said the Bench.
The Delhi High Court, on Thursday, scorned at the way in which a school in Delhi handled the sexual harassment complaints received by it and directed it to forward all the complaints to the Police.
The Bench comprising Justice Siddharth Mridul and Justice Deepa Sharma observed, " The School is an institution of learning where the child is prepared and groomed for the Society. It is the duty of every School to provide safe and healthy atmosphere for the psychological, cognitive and behavioral development of the children...
... Children spend considerable time of their day at School. It is the responsibility of the School Management to provide safe and secure environment to the children and also to prevent them from any danger or harassment. The Management of the School should ensure that the adults who work in the School do not pose a risk to children. If the children face any harassment or untoward behavior and they report to their school administration, it is their duty to deal with such matters strictly."
The Court was hearing a Petition filed by Mr. Anirudh Kumar Pandey, who was employed as a music teacher at Modern Public School, Delhi. In September, 2000, he was accused of outraging the modesty of female students and misbehaving with lady teachers, after which he submitted his resignation instead of offering an explanation against the accusations.
Mr. Pandey had now petitioned the Court submitting that the resignation was withdrawn by him before it was admitted by the Director of Education. He had contended that the resignation was not voluntary and was extracted from him through coercion and duress.
The School, on the other hand, had contended that it had received several complaints of sexual harassment against Mr. Pandey and that his resignation had been accepted right away.
Accepting the contentions put forth by the school, the Court observed, "It is a settled proposition of law that once a letter of resignation is accepted, it cannot be withdrawn and the withdrawal of resignation is permissible only before its acceptance."
It then noted that Rule 114A of Delhi School Education Rules, 1973, which deals with the resignation by an employee of a recognized private school, supports the contention that once the resignation is accepted by the Managing Committee of the school, it is final.
The Court, however, rapped the school for not forwarding the complaints to appropriate authorities for legal action and for simply issuing a show-cause notice to the accused teacher instead. It then observed, "In the present case, the manner in which the school authorities have handled the number of sexual harassment complaints received from young girls and their parents, really shocks our conscience...
...They must have felt relieved when the appellant submitted his resignation. This attitude of the school authorities encourages the wrongdoers and discourages the Samaritans or the brave girls who takes the courage to make complaints to school authorities. They took no legal actions on the complaints of sexual harassment of young girls received from them rather they brushed them under the carpet. It is also an incumbent duty of all to build a protective net around the children who have suffered any physical or emotional abuse. The lenient approach in such cases would certainly adversely affect the psychology of the children who carries such sexual abuses of their childhood to their teenage and then to their adulthood without having a satisfaction that the person who had abused them had been punished as per the law."
Read the Judgment Here