Sexual Harassment At Workplaces: Internal Complaints Committee Must Give Definite Conclusion: Delhi HC [Read Judgment]
The Delhi High Court has recently held that the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) constituted under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, must give a definite conclusion regarding the guilt of the person involved in the incident.
Justice Valmiki Mehta was hearing a petition filed by Ashok Kumar Singh against the report of Internal Complaints Committee of Dayal Singh Evening College on account of complaints against him.
The petitioner challenged the report on two counts. First count is that the report only gives a prima facie conclusion of the complaints having substance without the report actually giving a definite conclusion and holding the charges against the petitioner to be proved, and which aspects are very much required under Section 13(3) of the Act. The second count is he was not allowed to lead evidence in support of his defence. Accordingly, for all such reasons, it is argued that the Inquiry Reports are bad, being violative of principles of natural justice, and, thus, have to be set aside.
The bench after considering the reports reached the following findings:
- ICC holds 'prima facie' i.e., the conclusions, which have been arrived at, are not final but only prima facie conclusions.
- There is no final conclusion of guilt being found of the petitioner for his being indicted as such, inasmuch as, the expression used is ‘has some substance’ i.e., there is no definitive and final conclusion of guilt of the petitioner.
The court observed that Section 13(1) of the Act uses the expression ‘findings’ and thereafter sub-section (3) of the Act uses the expressions ‘conclusion’ and ‘has been proved’.
“Therefore, the findings of the ICC must also be along with a definitive conclusion and by holding that the facts alleged in the complaint have been proved against the guilty person, being the petitioner in the present case. As against the requirement of the Inquiry Report which has to be given in terms of Section 13 of the Act and its sub-sections (1) and (3), the Inquiry Reports in the present case no doubt contains the findings, but yet, no definitive conclusion is found of guilt of the petitioner for his being indicted and nor it is found that the ICC/inquiry authority holds that the facts as stated in the complaint have been proved”.
According to Justice Mehta, all the three reports fall foul of the requirements of sub- section (3) of Section 13 of the Act because there is no definitive conclusion of petitioner being held guilty and also that there is no finding that the charges against the petitioner have been proved.
“The operative portions of the reports, therefore, being in violation of sub- section (3) of Section 13 of the Act are liable to be set aside, and accordingly, set aside,” he said.
The bench also said that only the operative portion of the report falls foul of the requirements in terms of sub-section (3) of Section 13 of the Act.
“..though a fresh report will have to be given by the ICC, but ICC is at complete liberty to rely upon and arrive at the same conclusions in terms of reasoning and discussion given in reports dated 30.6.2015 and 12.2.2016, if the ICC so wants to do so,” the court said.
Read the Judgment here.
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