Article (December-2017)


3. When ICC inquiry is illegal and consequence thereof?

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Facts of the case:
Manisha Sharma the appellant, while was serving as a Senior Divisional Accounts Officer w.e.f. June, 1997 at a Division Accounts and Finance Department of Northern Railway used to report to Mr.Raj Kumar, respondent No.5 who was working then as a Divisional Railway Manger of Ferozpur Division. On 18.12.1997, the Chairman, Railway Board along with senior railway officers of Railway Board, Northern Railway Headquarters and Ferozpur Division along with General Manager of Northern Railway were on a visit to Beas for the inauguration of Beas-Goindwal Section. The aforesaid officials including respondent No.5, Mr.Raj Kumar visited the residence of a religious head of Radha Soami sect at Beas and the appellant also accompanied the aforesaid officers. In the course of meeting, the appellant was asked to be seated next to respondent No.5 on the sofa. While other officers were engrossed in discussions, respondent No.5 made repeated physical gestures of pressing his thigh against the appellant and brushing his arms and body against the appellant. He tried to put his arm around the appellant and made physical and sexual gestures. The appellant was so taken aback and seeing somber atmosphere could not react immediately and just got up from the sofa during the Swamiji?s discourse and discussions with the Chairman, Railway Board and in an extremely disturbed state of mind, made an abrupt exit. The appellant was shell shocked and did not know what she ought to do. She had to rush in tears to the bathroom in Swamiji’s house so as to control and compose herself. While she came out and was standing outside the house of Swamiji, respondent No.5 came up to the appellant and told that she should not have run out and stayed inside and enjoyed herself.

Without knowing as to how to deal with the situation, the appellant gathered all the courage and reported the matter to Respondent No.4, Mr.S.Murali, Financial Advisor and Chief Accounts Officer, who was also present at that time. Mr.Murali assured the appellant that he would inform the General Manager immediately about the incident and would also arrange a meeting with the General Manager in Delhi to enable the appellant to tell the General Manager everything in person.

However, nothing happened about the assured meeting with the General manager upto 22.12.1997 on which date, there was a General Manager’s Annual Inspection of Ludhiana-Ferozpur line of Ferozpur Division. At the time of such inspection Mr.Gurdip Singh, Financial Advisor and Chief Accounts Officer/B&E, had accompanied the General Manager in place of Mr.Murali and the appellant told Mr.Gurdip Singh that she desired to meet the General Manager to apprise him of the full facts of the incident that took place on 18.12.1997. She was informed by Mr.Gurdip Singh that Mr.Murali had already discussed the matter pertaining to the Beas incident to the General Manager and appropriate action was being taken. The appellant was also informed that a meeting with the General Manager at Delhi was being arranged and the appellant need not visit Delhi immediately.

On coming to know that no action was taken on the incident dated 18.12.1997 and fearing further sexual harassment at the hands of respondent No.5 and feeling unsecured at her workplace, she was constrained to proceed on leave w.e.f. 23.12.1997. She was pursuing the matter with Mr.Murali for appropriate action against respondent No.5 and having noticed that no action would be taken, she wrote a letter dated 07.01.1998 to Mr.Murali requesting him to take immediate action about the incident which took place on 18.12.1997 at Beas. After the said letter, she was denied permission to go on leave and was compelled to join back service which she did on 01.01.1998 on which date she was denied leave.

On 17.01.1998 the Divisional Railway Mangers Annual Inspection had been planned at Ferozpur division. The appellant was also constrained to go for the inspection along with the other members even while she was under a state of trauma on account of the incident of 18.12.1997 and the refusal of leave as well. While the appellant was travelling in a special train where respondent No.5 also travelled, he once again acted in a debased manner and made provocative sexual statements when the appellant went to pick up her belongings from the carriage at Kotkapur station. In view of the above, she had to get down at Kotkapur station leaving her belongings including her file and purse in the carriage. At the time of inspection at Kotkapur station, all the officers were seated inside the carriage and the petitioner went back to the same carriage where her bag, purse and official files were lying. To her horror, she found that respondent No.5 was sitting alone in the lounge of the carriage and when the appellant hastily tried to grab her belongings which was lying on a Table in the lounge and rushed towards the exit door, the respondent No.5 immediately moved and tried to stop her by catching her arm and asked her to sit on the sofa next to him. With great effort, the appellant managed to extricate herself from the situation and escaped by jumping down from the carriage. As by the time, the train had started moving the appellant rushed towards the next carriage and with great difficulty boarded the same and in the process she even injured her ankle. On her return to Ferozpur, the appellant again spoke to Mr.Gurdip Singh and complained about the incident which took place in the train. She also requested Mr.Gurdip Singh for an urgent meeting with Mr.Murali, Financial Advisor and Chief Accounts Officer on the ground that he could not have subjected herself to further humiliation and sexual exploitation and continued threat to her dignity as a woman. She refused to go on inspections which was to be held on 23.01.1998 and 24.01.1998 and rather decided to go to Delhi to take up the matter with Financial Advisor and Chief Accounts Officer and General Manager.

On 23.01.1998, the appellant along with her husband met Mr.Murali, FA& CAO and the General Manager, Mr.S.P.Mehta. The husband of the appellant apprised the General Manager about the details regarding various incidents and how she was sexually harassed by the officer who was heading the Division in which the appellant was working. The General Manager was requested to safeguard the appellants honour and dignity, create safe working environment for lady officers like the appellant.

Instead of taking corrective steps, the General Manager suggested that the appellant should be immediately transferred from Ferozpur. In fact, the General Manager was also informed that respondent No.5 got emboldened when no action was taken against him for the alleged incident on 18.12.1997 and the second incident on 17.01.1998. On finding a completely unsympathetic approach of the General Manager, the appellant was left with no alternative but to proceed on leave as it was not possible for her to work in the division in an atmosphere where her dignity and honour was continuously under threat. To her utter shock, instead of taking any action against respondent No.5, the appellant received a transfer order dated 17.01.1998 when she had just completed 8 months at Ferozpur. In compliance of the order, she joined at Delhi on 02.03.1998 after being on medical leave in the intervening period due to a sudden and severe attack of measles.

As no action was taken, the appellant wrote a letter dated 19.03.1998 not only re-agitating the complete insensitivity of the administration towards the aforesaid two incidents of sexual harassment by respondent No.5 but also set out in detail the background in which the incidents had taken place and in spite of the above no action was taken. Hence the appellant was compelled to approach the National Commission for Woman vide her complaint which was received by the Commission on 01.04.1998.

Manisha Sharma vs. Union Of India And Ors. on 21 December, 2012 (Delhi H.C.) LPA No.489/2004