Respondent has a right to cross examine the complainant in proceedings before the internal complaint

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Respondent has a right to cross examine the complainant in proceedings before the internal complaints committee and denial of such opportunity violates natural justice   Dec 27, 2016

The Delhi High Court, in a landmark decision, while dealing with a writ petition filed by Mr.Manjeet Singh, Vice President, set aside the conclusions of the Internal Complaints Committee which investigated a case of sexual harassment under the above Act and quashed the Orders of punishment imposed by the Management of Indraprastha Gas Ltd. (IGL) with the following important legal observations

a) The Complainant’s version of sexual harassment was not corroborated by any witness. 

b) Opportunity was not given for proper cross examination of the witnesses. It cannot be reduced to a verbal duel of mutual allegations. 

c) The factual inferences and the conclusions drawn by the ICC were not supported by evidence and hence cannot be sustained. 

d) The investigation was carried out in violation of the principles of natural justice. 

e) Adherence to natural justice is the foundation of all such investigations. 

 

2. Briefly stated, the facts of the case are as under

a) Ms. Reena Mohanty, an Executive Secretary employed in IGL complained to the Managing Director that Mr. Manjeet Singh, Vice President, during the Republic Day office celebration when prize distribution was scheduled, was reported to have detained her in his cabin by persuasive talk and indulged in undesirable talk, much against her wishes, whilst showing photographs of girls during his recent visit to Iran. Further he advised her that he had taken her photograph and had touched her inappropriately by hugging her. 

b) Ms. Reena Mohanty made a written complaint to the MD and a subsequent detailed complaint to the Internal Complaint Committee (ICC). 

c) An investigation was conducted by ICC under the referred Act, during which three of the Complainant’s witnesses deposed of what was reported to them by Ms. Reena Mohanty. The evidence of three witnesses did not corroborate the charge of harassment. 

d) In the cabin where the reported incident took place there was no other person except Mr. Majneet Singh and Ms. Reena Mohanty. The ICC arrived at the conclusion that the specific charges leveled against Mr. Manjeet Singh by the lady could only be proved partially due to lack of evidence and that they could not be substantiated completely. With such observations the ICC held that Mr. Manjeet Singh had intentionally or unintentionally indulged in behavior which can be termed “as more than familiar or even flirtations in terms of transgressing the lines of acceptable behavior which impinged on the Complainant’s modesty. The ICC recommended appropriate disciplinary action. 

e) Accordingly, based on the report of the ICC, the Management of IGL imposed the punishment of reducing the rank of Mr.Manjeet Singh to one lower post. 

 

3. The Hon’ble High Court, after scrutinizing the facts of the case, the evidence deposed before the ICC and the manner in which inferences were made and conclusions drawn by the Committee, made the following legal observations

a) During the investigation nobody corroborated the Complainant’s version of sexual harassment. 

b) Cross examination in an investigation was reduced to a mutual allegation of charges against each other or a verbal duel. 

c) Cross examination has to be done in an orderly manner to delineate the truth and cannot be reduced to a farce. 

d) Even a modicum of Order was not seen in the conduct of cross examination which is essential for it to lend any credence.

e) No reasons were found for the Committee to arrive at the conclusion that the Petitioner’s behavior was flirtatious in terms of transgressing the limits of acceptable behavior. Even the so called circumstantial evidence is not seen in the records. 

f) As the Committee’s conclusions were unfounded they are set aside and the Order of punishment quashed. 

g) Adherence to natural justice forms the foundation of both quasi judicial and administrative enquiry. 


4. Members may, with advantage peruse the decision carefully to understand the legal precautions that must be followed during any investigation by the ICC.

 

Download the text of the judgment. 

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