Observing that women who suffer sexual harassment are blamed because of the way they dress or are attractive, the Madras High Court held that while the victim may excuse the misconduct of the harasser, the court should exhibit zero tolerance towards men who harass women in workplace.
Chennai: The first bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy made the observation while dealing with a case involving an IPS officer R Subbash in Puducherry.
Senior counsel ARL Sundaresan appearing for the police officer submitted that the alleged victim had not lodged a formal complaint against the said officer and the committee had taken suo motu cognisance of the issue and thereafter obtained a complaint from her. He also submitted that the victim alone can set the law in motion relating to sexual harassment in the workplace and that even as the duo was willing for a conciliation, the process was not allowed and the committee had gone ahead and submitted its report.
However, the Chief Justice, on observing that women have been harassed for too long, highlighted the difficulty that prevails for a woman to say that she has been sexually harassed especially with the society immediately pointing an accusing finger at the woman and blaming her for having caused it.
“Sometimes one may have to err on the side of the woman because the message has to be loud and clear that sexual harassment in workplace will not be tolerated,” the Chief Justice said while adding, “Let us close this chapter of women being harassed at work place.”
With the petitioner’s counsel pointing out that a man also could be subjected to harassment through such complaints from women, the bench noted that they are aligned to such a possibility but refused to grant any indulgence on the issue on holding that the committee report spells out graphic details of how the woman was harassed by the police officer. Following this, the plea was dismissed as withdrawn.