Difficult for a woman to say she was sexually harassed because society blames her: Madras High Court Chief Justice

He went on to touch upon the stigma women face when they air complaints of sexual misconduct, remarking that they are often blamed on account of being attractive or dressing in a certain way.
Difficult for a woman to say she was sexually harassed because society blames her: Madras High Court Chief Justice
Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee, Madras High Court

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee of the Madras High Court on Tuesday made strong oral observations over the need to ensure that there is zero-tolerance when it comes to sexual harassment of women.

Sitting on the Bench with Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy, Chief Justice Banerjee commented that given that women have been suffering for long owing to such issues, "we absolutely must have zero tolerance" to instances of sexual harassment.

Even if the woman may excuse the misconduct, the conduct of the perpetrator in the workplace would still be important, he opined.

He went on to touch upon the stigma women face when they air complaints of sexual misconduct, remarking that they are often blamed on account of being attractive or dressing in a certain way. He remarked,

"How difficult is it for a woman to say that she has been sexually harassed because we as society immediately points a finger at the woman!"

Owing to this, the Chief Justice opined that sometimes one may have to err on the side of the woman so that a message goes out loud and clear that sexual harassment will not be tolerated.

In this case, Senior Advocate ARL Sunderasan asserted before Court that the woman had been forced to give a complaint of this nature against the appellant. As such, he argued that the appellant should not be unduly put to suffering. Responding to the Court's oral observations, he added that if the allegations were true, it cannot be tolerated.

The Court, however, expressed its disinclination to interfere with the single judge order under appeal, given that the complainant has not officially withdrawn her complaint. Additionally, the Bench pointed out that there is no affidavit placed where the complainant has supported the appellant's contention that her complaint was forced. In the absence of this, the law should take its own course, the Bench remarked.

The Court also declined to grant liberty so that either such an affidavit may be filed or notice issued to the complainant so she can personally inform the Court about the case.

Responding to submissions made by Sundaresan that the appellant was being made to suffer on account of a forced complaint, Chief Justice Banerjee acknowledged that the Court is alive to the possibility.

All the same, since a complaint was made in graphic detail and given that there was no request to withdraw the same, the Court indicated that it was not inclined to grant relief to the appellant.

The appellant's counsel ultimately took a call to withdraw the appeal, upon which the Court recorded that the matter stood dismissed as withdrawn without costs.

The Bench added in its order that the filing of the appeal and the writ petition should not prejudice the appellant from taking any other remedies available to him according to law.

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