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Homechevron_rightIndiachevron_rightDelhi HC rejects...

Delhi HC rejects quashing of sexual harassment case in plea filed by a CA

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Delhi HC rejects quashing of sexual harassment case in plea filed by a CA
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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court recently ruled that the internal complaints committee's proceedings in a sexual harassment case will not be quashed, even if the panel fails to complete the investigation within the allotted 90 days as required by law, after hearing a chartered accountant's petition for the quashing of those proceedings.

The claim made by the chartered accountant that the inquiry proceeding will be void if it is not completed within 90 days was rejected by a single judge bench of Justice Vikas Mahajan on January 5.

“The petitioner has not pointed out any prejudice caused to him on account of delay. It is not the case of the petitioner that the delay is attributable to respondent no. 3 (complainant). I am prima facie of the view that the complaint of sexual harassment and the inquiry proceeding emanating therefrom cannot be quashed merely for the reasons that the internal complaints committee (ICC) failed to complete the inquiry within the time frame given in Section 11(4) of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act (POSH)”.

The bench further notes that in the interest of the complainant as well as the person against whom the allegations of sexual harassment have been levelled, such complaints containing such allegations "deserve to be treated with a certain amount of seriousness and responsibility" and have to be investigated and "taken to their logical conclusion."

A second sexual harassment claim made by the complainant under the POSH Act was being contested by the petitioner, who had asked for interim relief. He claimed that the June 3, 2022 complaint that was the topic of the same alleged incident as the second complaint that was submitted on October 12, 2022. In his second complaint, he also disputed the notice he had received about the hearing that would take place on January 6, 2022.

The CA argued that it is illegal under the law for there to be two proceedings for the same incident. He claimed, citing Section 11(4) of the POSH Act, that the investigation had to be finished within 90 days after the first complaint's date of June 3, 2022, and that because of this, the entire ICC process is invalid.

The high court bench did observe that the two complaints had the same information and were about the same incident, Indian Express reported.

“Prima facie, I find force in the contention of the learned counsel for the respondents that the inquiry which has been initiated by the Internal Complaints Committee is in fact, with regard to the complaint dated 03.06.2022 and the hearing already held on 23.09.2022, and the one proposed to be held on 06.01.2023, are part of the same inquiry. There is no question of the petitioner being subjected to two separate enquiries,” it said.

The court noted that the ICC hearing on September 23, 2022, was a preliminary one in which it may have attempted to reach a settlement in accordance with Section 10 of the Act. After that, a second hearing was scheduled for January 6, 2022. The court stated that this hearing is "part of the same inquiry proceeding which have been initiated pursuant" to the complaint from June 3, 2022. According to the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, the complainant initially addressed her complaint to ICC through email on June 3, 2022, and then on October 12, 2022, she delivered paper copies of the same complaint, as required under the POSH Act.

The high court rejected the CA's request for an immediate halt to the proceedings and observed that the circumstances of the particular case did not support the assertion that Section 11(4) of the POSH Act's provisions "cannot be said to be mandatory."


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TAGS:#Sexual harrasment casePosh actChartered Accountant
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