PoSH ESP Case Law 2 Brief – Vishakha Guidelines V11

CASE LAW BRIEF

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Prevention of Sexual Harassment (PoSH)

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Case Law Brief Non-Compliance with the Vishakha Guidelines

Case Brief Title

U.S. Verma, Principal and D.P.S. Faridabad vs. National Commission for Women, Ms. Jayashri Kannan and Ors.

Keywords

Vishakha guidelines, National Committee of Women, termination

Acts and Sections Referred to

Vishakha guidelines; National Commission under the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993; National Commission for Women Act 1990 Sec. 10

Case Number

1730/2001, 1731/2001, 1733/2001

Court

Delhi High Court

Petitioner

U.S. Verma, Principal, and D.P.S. Faridabad Ms. Jayshri Kannan, Ms. Shayista Jabeen Raza, Ms. Shrini Kaul, Ms. Anju Gupta and National Commission for Women

Appellant(s)

-

Respondent(s)

National Commission For Women and Ors.

U.S. Verma and Ors.

Judge(s)

Honourable Justice S. Ravindra Bhat

Case Brief: A complaint of sexual harassment was filed against the Principal, DPS, Faridabad by three (03) lady teachers and one (01) staff member of the school. The school administration asked Dr. Kamla Choudhury and Ms. Sharada Nayak to investigate the matter. A report was sent to the DPS management pronouncing the Principal guilty of the act. In the meanwhile, another committee was established by the DPS management under Ms. Sharada Nayak. The complainants refused to appear before this committee since the composition of the committee did not conform to the Vishakha guidelines stipulated by the Honourable Supreme Court as it did not have a member from an NGO and having knowledge of dealing with women issues. Ms. Sharada Nayak Committee prepared the report in the draft mode in an attempt to exonerate the Principal of the charges leveled against him by the four (04) women. These women then approached the National Commission of Women who conducted an independent investigation. The principal avoided to appear before the Commission and in its report proclaimed the Principal guilty of the act and asked DPS to terminate the Principal. It also alleged DPS of a cover-up to protect the Principal. The Principal and the DPS filed a writ petition with the Delhi High Court petitioning to quash the Commission report arguing about its jurisdiction to recommend termination of the Principal and hold DPS guilty of a cover up. On the other hand, the Complainant women together with the National Commission for

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Women too filed a writ petition in the same Delhi High Court pleading to direct the DPS appropriately.

Judgement: The Delhi High Court overserved that some of these writ petitions originally were filed before the Supreme Court; the Society appears to have approached this Court simultaneously and later all these matters came to be taken up by this Court in 2001. Eight long years have passed, Verma has since retired. Some of the teachers who complained have taken up alternative employments. Yet this Court is of the opinion that with the findings recorded above, WP(C) Nos. 1730/2001, 1731/2001 and 1733/2001, that the Commission's report cannot be deemed an adjudication and at the same time holding that Ms. Sharda Nayak Committee was not constituted and did not conduct its proceedings in accordance with law; the conclusions can only provide cold comfort to the complainants. In the normal circumstances, a finding that the disciplinary or inquiry proceedings were vitiated would have to lead the Court remitting the matter to the employer to take suitable steps for constituting another Committee in accordance with law. That course too, however, is inappropriate having regard to the length of time and the situation of the parties now. The teacher-complainants' concerns, therefore, would have to go un-redressed, with no further scope of inquiry into the truth or otherwise of their allegations. DPS society which is known for the quality of education it imparts through its several schools, in the country, unfortunately, in this instance, does not emerge with a role that a model employer should have displayed, and was expected of it. The Vishakha guidelines are to be taken seriously, and not followed in a ritualistic manner. Had that been the position, the teachers' could not have complained - regardless of whether their allegations were justified, or not borne out. The DPS Society's initial reluctance and later faulty compliance has led to this sorry state of affairs, due to which the Court is constrained to enjoin an entirely unsatisfactory closure to the matter. Having regard to the overall conspectus of the facts of this case, the Court deems it appropriate in the circumstances that the DPS Society should pay a sum of INR 2.5 lakhs to each of the petitioners namely Ms. Jayshri Kannan, Ms. Shayista Jabeen Raza and Ms. Shrini Kaul in WP(C) No. 1731/2001 (they were also impleaded as respondents in the matter filed by DPS Society). It should also pay a sum of INR 1 lakh to the fourth employee/ teacher impleaded by it i.e. Ms. Anju Gupta. The writ petitions being WP(C) Nos.1730/2001, 1731/2001 and 1733/2001 are disposed of in terms of the above findings and directions. The amount so awarded shall be paid by the DPS Society within four weeks from the date.

1. Vishakha guidelines are sacrosanct while dealing with the cases of sexual harassment 2. National Commission for Women have no adjudicating powers 3. Principle of natural justice is compromised due to biases possessed by some of the inquiry committee members 4. Procedural bungling causes delay in pronouncing justice with an inherent potential of denying it ultimately 5. However, in spite of a delay of eight (08) long years denial of justice can be partially mitigated through award of financial compensation to the complainants

Learning Outcome

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