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“Baseless, defamatory” sexual harassment allegations: TN Bar Council lets off complainant

“Baseless, defamatory” sexual harassment allegations: TN Bar Council lets off complainant

Meera Emmanuel

A complaint involving allegations of sexual harassment before the disciplinary committee of the Tamil Nadu Bar Council (TN Bar Council) recently turned on its head when it was found that the errant party in the matter was the complainant herself.

The complainant in the matter had challenged her dismissal from the Nagercoil Bar Association, alleging that it was based on a false complaint from the Nagercoil Bar Association president. She also alleged that the Bar Association President had outraged her modesty and sexually tortured her.

On May 6, both the complainant and the Bar Association President made submissions before the Disciplinary committee of the TN Bar Council, comprising of Chairman R Singaravelan and members S Ilamvluthi and Ravi Shanmugam.

Contesting the complainant’s claims, the Bar Association president deposed that he had dismissed her on a complaint being made that she had sent lewd messages former Minister, Suresh Rajan. The president further submitted that when he had confronted her about the same and advised her against it, the complainant “abused him in filthy language”. It was also submitted that the complainant had gone on to send “ugly messages” to a principal sub-judge.

Later on, the sub-judge also filed a complaint against her. The judge’s complaint was one of the related matters clubbed together and posted before the Bar Council’s Disciplinary committee. However, the Bar Council records that it was unwilling to call for evidence in support of his allegations as “it may amount to washing of a dirty linen in water in public space.” This comment was made in the backdrop of a finding that the complainant’s original allegations were devoid of merit to begin with.

Following emotional arguments made on May 6, the Bar Council found the complainant’s conduct to be suspicious. As noted in the final order,

After hearing them for nearly an hour, we found that there is something wrong on the part of the Complainant who gave the complaint against the Respondent as she not only made allegations against the Respondent by also against the Learned Principal Sub Judge, Nagercoil. 

The way in which she argued…without understanding the consequences of her conduct as a woman advocate sent sympathetic waves in our mind.

Her conduct before the Bar Council appears to have led it to it to conclude that the allegations levelled by her were baseless. It proceeded to record that if her complaint were dealt on merits, not only would the complaint be dismissed, but that the Council would also have to take stringent action against the complainant for her  “baseless and defamatory allegations” made by her against all, including the judge.

In a later part of the order, the Bar Council notes that the complainant had sent the provocative messages in question after a property case in which she was involved in had gone awry. As noted in the order,

It is really shocking to note the conduct of a woman advocate who at first tried to justify her conduct that she used to send messages as she is being victimised in her property case.

If every advocate chooses tore sport to the above type of indecent practice then the people will lose confidence not inly on the advocate by also on the courts…”

The Bar Council also commented that complainant appeared to be suffering from depression, which was “quite common” for a woman of her age.

Her conduct and her arguments before us have made us to come tot a conclusion that she has made allegations left and right against all without understanding the consequences of the same. She seems to have been completely suffering from depression, which is quite common at the age of 52 to 60 years.”

In view of these circumstances, the Bar Council opted to take a lenient view and let off the complainant without punitive action, after she filed affidavits tendering her unconditional apology. The apology was tendered on the advice of the Council. She also undertook not to indulge in similar misconduct in the future.

On a parting note, the Bar Council states,

…one should not forget a popular adage that if a female is educated then the entire society is meant to be educated and we add further that adage that if a female is punished and sent home her entire family is meant to be punished and made to face humiliation in the society for generations together. In view of such a thought, we avoid imposing any major punishment against her and choose to close all the cases by accepting her unconditional apology and withdrawal of all the allegations and messages…”

Read the TN Bar Council order below: