NEW DELHI: Filing a false sexual harassment case 15 years ago against a now retired senior officer of Northern Railways has landed a woman in trouble with a court directing her to pay Rs 5 lakh to him “to console the hurt victim”.
Holding that the woman had defamed the 74-year-old man, who has now retired, additional district judge Rajender Kumar Shastri directed the woman to pay compensation, saying “every man has his own status, however humble, and he has a right to guard his reputation”.
The woman had alleged that she was sexually harassed in 1996, while working as secretary to the then chief personnel officer in Northern Railways. The Central Administrative Tribunal (CAT) had ruled in her favour, but the Delhi High court in 2008 set aside the order, terming it “invalid”.
The man had filed a defamation suit against the woman seeking damages of Rs 10 lakh for the “emotional trauma” he underwent.
He claimed that she had filed the complaint of sexual harassment after he had reprimanded her for not doing her work properly. He also said the prolonged litigation caused him humiliation among his peers.
ADJ Shastri said, “The plaintiff (man) was a senior officer, who served the Indian Railways. There is no evidence against plaintiff about any misconduct except the complaint lodged by present defendant, which was proved as false.”
The court, however, showed leniency towards the woman while deciding the compensation amount after she pleaded that she was a widow and could not afford such a penalty. “I agree that status of claimant in society is a factor to be considered by the court in awarding compensation but status and financial position of other party ie defendant (woman) also cannot be ignored. The objective of providing compensation is to console the victim and not to punish the defendant by imposing such a penalty which she cannot afford from her means,” it said.
There can be no dispute that stringent laws are needed to deal with sexual harassment. However, it’s also true that strong laws are more prone to being misused. To prevent this, it could be stipulated that where a complaint is proved to be false, the accuser must not only suffer amonetary penalty but face a jail term too. That would be a real deterrence against abuse of the law.
Of course, the mere fact that the accused in a sexual harassment case is acquitted should not suffice to trigger this provision. It should be up to the accused to provethat the complaint is false and has been filed with mala fide intent.
Source: The Times of India