Sexual harassment at the workplace is an affront to woman's fundamental rights to equality and right to live with dignity: Supreme Court
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Sexual harassment at the workplace is an affront to woman's fundamental rights to equality and right to live with dignity: Supreme Court

The Court made the observation while quashing a transfer order against a woman bank employee, issued following her complaints of corruption and sexual harassment at her branch.

Aishwarya Iyer

The Supreme Court recently upheld a Madhya Pradesh High Court judgment quashing the transfer of a woman bank employee (respondent), issued after she had complained against an officer for sexual harassment, apart from submitting reports about irregularities and corruption at the bank branch. (Punjab and Sind Bank & Ors v Mrs Durgesh Kuwar)

The Bench of Justices DY Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi held,

"Sexual harassment at the workplace is an affront to the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under Articles 14 and 15 and her right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution as well as her right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business."
Supreme Court
Sexual harassment at the workplace is an affront to woman's fundamental rights to equality and right to live with dignity: Supreme Court

The appeal was filed by the bank authorities against the judgement of the High Court, which had allowed the woman employee's writ petition and quashed the Transfer order.

On evaluating the material on record and rival submissions, the Bench noted that the respondent-employee had written repeated communications to the authorities drawing their attention to the serious irregularities in the functioning of the Bank, as well as sexual harassment allegations against the Zonal Manager.

The transfer order was found to have served within a month of the woman employee sending the last of such representations. Further, the woman was found to have been transferred to a small branch in rural area, where should would receive pay below her scale rank.

In such circumstances, the Court observed that although an employee is not entitled to a choice of postings, “there can be no manner of doubt that the respondent has been victimized. Her reports of irregularities in the Branch met with a reprisal.”

The Bench, therefore, upheld the High Court verdict and reprimanded the Bank for its approach at handling a complaint. The Bench observed,

There can be no manner of doubt that the respondent has been victimized. She was transferred out and sent to a branch which was expected to be occupied by a Scale I officer. This is symptomatic of a carrot and stick policy adopted to suborn the dignity of a woman who is aggrieved by unfair treatment at her workplace. The law cannot countenance this. The order of transfer was an act of unfair treatment and is vitiated by mala fides.

Supreme Court

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