Principle of Natural Justice in Sexual Harassment Cases- Right of accused to defend himself in -Balkrishna Porwal vs. PIO, Department of Posts

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Principle of Natural Justice in Sexual Harassment Cases- Right of accused to defend himself in -Balkrishna Porwal vs. PIO, Department of Posts

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal Act, 2013) provides a prevention and redressal mechanism. The legislature while enacting the law has made safeguard provisions to protect the rights of the victim and the accused. It has also incorporated sufficient safeguards to ensure that principles of natural justice are met with.

In this instant case the accused had tried to obtain information/documents pertaining to his case to defend himself.

Section 16 provides “Notwithstanding anything contained in the Right to Information Act, 2005, the contents of the complaint made under section 9, the identity and addresses of the aggrieved woman, respondent and witnesses, any information relating to conciliation and inquiry proceedings, recommendations of the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, and the action taken by the employer or the District Officer under the provisions of this Act shall not be published, communicated or made known to the public, press and media in any manner:

Provided that information may be disseminated regarding the justice secured to any victim of sexual harassment under this Act without disclosing the name, address, identity or any other particulars calculated to lead to the identification of the aggrieved woman and witnesses.”

This prohibition is a prohibition of publication of information to and by the media about the identity and address of the aggrieved wan, respondent and witnessing during the conciliation and inquiry proceedings, and action taken etc. It does not mean that the information can be denied to the respondent- accused. Hence denial of information sought by the appellant is in clear breach of all above provisions of the SHW Act of 2013.

The court held ”The information/documents sought by accused -appellant were denied invoking wrongfully the Section 16 of SHW Act of 2013, which authorised the public authority to deny them to the press and media. Section is unambiguous and it cannot be denied to the complainant, while there are many provisions which candidly direct the department to provide them.”

The court also rejected the contention of the information/documents falling under the exemption Clause of the RTI Act.

Is it a Human Right of Person Accused of Sexual Harassment to get info to defend himself, says CIC, Penalises “Penny-wise” CPIO-  Live Law, June 28, 2018