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The Delhi High Court on Tuesday, October 31, said that every unwelcome physical contact cannot be categorised as sexual harassment.
The petitioner, Shanta Kumar, said in her complaint that while she was working at the laboratory in Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), the respondent “stopped the machine and snatched the samples” from her and had “thrown the materials”. She continued that he had, thereafter, “pushed the petitioner out of the laboratory and had locked the laboratory.”
She also alleged that “he was shouting and using derogatory language against one Dr Sood and Scheduled Castes Community (as she was married to a person belonging to the SC category).” However, it appears that the said complaint was not forwarded to the concerned authorities at the relevant time, the court observed.
Kumar’s appeal had previously been quashed by the Complaint Committee as well as the Disciplinary Authority and the respondent was given a clean chit.
She then moved the Delhi HC. However, Justice Vibhu Bakhru explained, “Undoubtedly, physical contact or advances would constitute sexual harassment provided such physical contact is a part of the sexually determined behaviour. Such physical contact must be in the context of a behaviour which is sexually oriented. Plainly, a mere accidental physical contact, even though unwelcome, would not amount to sexual harassment. Similarly, a physical contact which has no undertone of a sexual nature and is not occasioned by the gender of the complainant may not necessarily amount to sexual harassment.”
Kumar had claimed that the respondent held her arm and any unwelcome physical contact should be categorized as sexual harassment.
However, the Court observed, “although the Complaint Committee had accepted that there was evidence to show that respondent no.3 had held the arm of the petitioner, it had concluded that the same was not a sexually determined behaviour but was in the nature of the altercation,” and concluded that it finds no merit in the present petition, thus, dismissing the case.
You can read the entire verdict here.
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