Saturday, December 3, 2022

Delhi HC notice to Centre, BSF DG on sexual harassment case in force

The Division Bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Justice Amit Bansal was hearing the petition by a Commandant CMO (SG), in-charge at Sector Headquarter (SHQ) Hospital Panisagar, Tripura, alleging sexual harassment meted out to her by her senior.

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The Delhi High Court, on Monday, issued notice to the Centre and the Director-General of Border Security Force among others, in a plea seeking court-monitored Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) proceedings in an alleged sexual harassment case.

The Division Bench of Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw and Justice Amit Bansal was hearing the petition by a Commandant CMO (SG), in-charge at Sector Headquarter (SHQ) Hospital Panisagar, Tripura, alleging sexual harassment meted out to her by her senior.

The matter is slated for hearing on September 29, 2021.

The petition has been filed by Dr. Millie Murmu, through Advocate Dr. Swati Jindal Garg. The plea averred that the petitioner joined the BSF in 2003. She was posted at SHQ Panisagar in July 2018 and has been away from her family for many years owing to her postings. The petitioner has been subjected to sexual assault and harassment by her senior, the then DIG Sindhu Kumar, ever since she joined posting at Panisagar; and several illegal SCOIs/ROEs have been ordered by Kumar against the petitioner to pressurize her to accede to sexual favours demanded by him.

Since there was no grievance redressal mechanism (ICC) at her place of posting to report incidents of sexual harassment, the petitioner wrote to DG BSF seeking an urgent interview on several occasions in July 2019, but her requests were denied. The ADG (HR) asked her to meet Comdt. (Pers) YS Rathorewho assured her that the file is under process with DG BSF and she will be intimated accordingly. 

In October 2019, Kumar was posted at Jammu Frontierfollowing the complaints that were written by the petitioner to the DG BSF, however, the newly posted DIG Rajiv Dua also continued the hostile work environment as was created by Kumar. The Petitioner has been issued a series of unjustified Explanation Letters/Warning Letters by the DIG to harass her and disrupt her work from time to time.

On August 26, 2020, the petitioner was informed about the meeting of ICC at a different location, i.e. at Agartala, wherein she submitted a complaint in writing against Kumar. The plea contended that to date there has been no conclusive finding by the ICC regarding the veracity of the petitioner’s complaint and no heed is being paid to her requests. “Such behavior not only broke the morale of the petitioner but also raised a doubt in her mind regarding the unbiasedness of the ICC,” the plea stated.

In light of the above, apart from the court-supervised ICC proceedings, the plea prayed for quashing of all the illegal SCOIs/ROEs/ Explanation and Warning Letters ordered or issued against the petitioner; as also the quashing of the ICC enquiry held at Agartala. Furthermore, the plea sought transfer of the petitioner to Delhi to enable her to take care of her family as she has already completed more than two tenures of posting in the North East.

Also Read: Pay heed to Articles 21, 144 and follow orders given in Kanwar Yatra case: SC to Kerala govt

Relying on the decision of the Supreme Court in “Vishakha and Others vs. State of Rajasthan and Others,” the plea also sought for setting up of proper ICC at all BSF workplace locations to enable female employees to work with dignity. In addition, the plea urged to restrain the BSF from posting the petitioner at any location where there is no ICC. 

The plea stated thus: “The Petitioner is still emotionally disturbed and fearful of living in a hostile environment and hence she came back from her workplace and she extended her leave in order to take care of her children informing her senior but the same was rejected. The Petitioner doesn’t wish to return to an environment full of hostilities and bullies which will only add to her sufferings and denial of her basic rights. No remedy was given to her despite the constant reminders.”

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