Case Law : POSH Delhi HC Bibha Pandey and Punjab National Bank decided on 16 December 2020 in WP(C) No. 3249 of 2017
The ICC concluded that the allegations cannot be termed as sexual harassment at workplace and complaint is rejected. Reproducing the recommendations of the ICC:
” “After detailed deliberations, the committee observed that both the complainant Ms. Bibha Pandey as well as the respondent Shri Ashwini Kumar Vats have entered into a relationship with each other on personal basis, with mutual consent. The allegations of sexual, mental and emotional harassment is not substantiated as the actions on the part of the Respondent and the allegations cannot be termed as sexual harassment at workplace as defined under Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013. Therefore, the present complaint is rejected being non maintainable as per the provisions of the Act of 2013.
The Committee observes from the records available that the Complainant as well as the Respondent, have acted in a manner which is unbecoming of an Officer employee of the Bank as they have indulged in inappropriate acts, not maintaining good conduct and discipline expected of them. The Respondent, being at a very senior position, failed to maintain the dignity and decorum of his position. No case under Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 is made out. Both the Complainant as well as the Respondent have behaved and acted in a manner which is not befitting to the post held by them. On the contrary, it is detrimental to the organization and has vitiated the atmosphere of the Bank. The competent authority may take suitable action against them as deemed fit.”
The High Court stated that:
“`Moral Policing’ is not the job of the Management or of the ICC. Any consensual relationship among adults would not be the concern of the Management or of the ICC, so long as the said relationship does not affect the working and the discipline of the organisation and is not contrary to the Rules or code of conduct binding on the said employees. It is only if a complaint is made of sexual harassment under the Act that the Management can constitute the ICC to enquire into the same. The ICC cannot make comments on the personal conduct of the parties and the ICC’s jurisdiction would be restricted to the allegations of sexual harassment and whether a complaint is made out or not, to that effect. Under these circumstances, this Court has no hesitation in holding that the last paragraph of the
recommendation of the ICC, which comments on the conduct of the parties and recommends to the competent authority to take action against the Petitioner and Respondent No. 3, for their inappropriate disciplinary conduct, is not tenable and is liable to be set aside.”
Summing up, a personal relationship between two consenting adults which does not adversely affect the working and discipline of the organisation cannot be acted upon unless it is a compalint of sexual harassment at work.
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