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Sexual Harassment At Workplace: Hospital Fined 25 Lakh For Not Having ICC

AKSHITA SAXENA
18 Sep 2019 4:43 PM GMT
Sexual Harassment At Workplace: Hospital Fined 25 Lakh For Not Having ICC
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The Madhya Pradesh High Court has imposed fine of Rs. 50,000 on Medanta Hospital, Indore for not having an Internal Complaints Committee, required to be constituted under Section 4(1) of the Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (the Act). It also directed the hospital to pay compensation to the tune of Rs. 25 lakhs to the Complainant in the case for failing to address her case of sexual harassment.

The above order was passed by Justice Rohit Arya in concurrence with the impugned report submitted by the Local Complaints Committee of Indore and the consequent order passed by the high court in Mrs. Arvinder Bagga & Ors. v. Local Complaints Committee, District Indore & Ors., W.P. No. 22314 of 2017.

The Local Committee, in a case made over to it by the Directorate of Women Empowerment, MP, had held that the Complainant, Senior Manager Marketing at the Hospital, was subjected to sexual harassment under Section 2(n) read with Section 3(2) the Act. It noted that the hospital had failed to address the humiliation and harassment faced by the Complainant on account of Medical Superintendent, Dr. Gowrinath Mandiga. During the enquiry it was also found that the hospital did not have an internal complaints committee under Section 4(1) of the Act. Moreover, when the Complainant tried to raise her voice and brought the issue before the Managing Director of the hospital, her case was dealt with utmost coldness and her services were terminated.

The Petitioner, Global Health Pvt. Ltd., under the brand name of Medanta Super Specialty Hospital, Indore, through Senior Advocate Amit Agrawal with Advocate Neha Vijavargiya, impugned the order of the high court, passed on the basis of the above report, directing cancellation of Complainant's termination; disciplinary proceedings against Dr. Gowrinath Mandiga under appropriate rules and imposing penalty of Rs. 50,000/- under section 26 of the Act due to failure to constitute the internal complains committee.

In the present petition, the court noted that, as soon as the Complainant took charge, the Medical Superintendent gave her a "passive unwelcome verbal note having trapping male gender mischief of sexual colour". Further that, he used to comment upon her outfits and he used to make her to sit in his cabin, creating obstruction and causing harassment in technical and operational support.

All these actions, as per the court, constituted a case for sexual harassment in as much as it was trite that the Act in question was predominantly social welfare legislation and must not receive narrow and pedantic meaning. "The provisions contained thereunder must receive contextual meaning and required to be interpreted broadly and liberally regard being had to the aims and objects of the Act", it said. Reliance was placed on Workmen v. American Express International Banking Corporation, AIR 1986 SC 458.

The court refused to accept the bald denials of the incident made by the Petitioner hospital to claim that the enquiry did not amount to sexual harassment as defined under section 2(n) and disagreed that the allegations with shades of sexual harassment were an afterthought.

The court was also of the opinion that when the hospital was itself uncooperative during the course of enquiry by the Local Committee, it could not at this stage claim that the Local Committee did not adhere to the principles of natural justice or that the individuals named and castigated with default were not afforded an opportunity of hearing.

On the issue of existence of an internal complaints committee, the court noted that the Local Committee had sent its representative to the Hospital to verify existence of the internal complaints committee before conducting enquiry into the complaint and it was found that the committee was not in existence. Thus the fine so imposed was upheld.

The court also cautioned the Managing Director of the Hospital to be sensitive and extra careful in dealing with pains and sufferings of the women employees at the workplace to avoid recurrence of such unfortunate incidences.

Lastly, the court opined that the termination of the Complainant was stigmatic, and ex facie, a sequel to her complaint against the Medical Superintendent. Thus, her termination, which was perpetrated as a "measure of punishment to achieve the collateral purpose to get rid of her by hook or crook", was set aside. The court further directed the hospital to pay compensation to the tune of Rs.25,00,000/- to the Complainant for the pain and suffering, loss of reputation, emotional distress and loss of salary of eighteen months. 

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