New Delhi, April 25: The Supreme Court has ordered the government to pay ₹1 lakh as compensation to a former woman intelligence officer with the Research and Analysis Wing, who attempted suicide outside the Prime Minister’s Office in 2008 after her sexual harassment complaint was casually dealt with.
A Bench led by Justice A.M. Khanwilkar appreciated the officer for her dignified conduct of her case in court and held that she had suffered “exceedingly insensitive and undignified circumstances due to improper handling of her complaint of sexual harassment”, The Hindu reported.
The court invoked the public law remedy of ordering compensation to make up for the indignity meted out to her. In this context, Justice Khanwilkar, in his 92-page verdict on Friday, referred to how the court had ordered compensation to former scientist S. Nambi Narayanan, who was framed by the police in the infamous Indian Space Research Organisation spy scandal.
The woman officer lodged the complaint against her seniors in August 2007. However, a committee was set up only three months, that too, after a written complaint to the Prime Minister’s Officer (PMO). This committee, which was later found to be improperly constituted, gave an ex-parte finding against her. The committee report led to the incident outside the PMO.
Besides, the court frowned upon the government’s move to issue an official press note that touched upon her “psychological condition” in connection with the incident then. A second committee led by an IAS officer was constituted only after her attempted suicide.
The court held that “Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2013 and Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) predicates that a non-hostile working environment is the basic limb of a dignified employment”.
Sexual harassment at workplace is not just confined to sexual acts alone but also extends to prejudice, hostility, discriminatory attitude and humiliation shown to a woman staffer in the day-to-day office functioning.
“Denial of timely inquiry and by a competent forum inevitably results in denial of justice and violation of fundamental rights,” Justice Khanwilkar observed.