Legal Defences available to Male Employees in a False Case of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace: Legal Advice
A Brief Introduction to “Misandry” or prejudice against males: –
In today’s world, every Tom, Dick and Harry is familiar with the word, “Misogyny”, i.e. strong prejudices against a woman. However, only few of us are known to a word called “Misandry”, which is hatred or prejudices against the men. Now, sometimes this misandry in some women leads to false sexual harassment, or rape related accusations against men. Interestingly, there is a concern among the mass for the protection of the women. Also, from time to time several government and non-government agencies have formulated schemes to secure the rights of the women. However, on the other hand we hardly have any such schemes in the protection of men’s right. It may be important for us to realise the fact that these false accusations of rape and sexual harassment are enough to tarnish the image of that man in the society. Notwithstanding the fact that the same is later proven innocent, there is kind of mistrust created in the society against that person.
The Societal Stereotype of Males: –
Coming to the point, as mentioned in the above passage, many times there are false cases of sexual harassment in work places against men. Now, it is quite tough for that person to prove the falsity of those charges. Both the legal system and society has historically evolved in such a manner that women are thought more vulnerable to men. And, it is true that women have suffered inequality, sexual harassment and more prejudices as compared to men. However, it may be noted that there have also been several cases of violence in the hands of women against men. But these issues are less talked about and the reason for the same is the social stereotype in respect of men. Men in the society are historically believed to be a stronger gender who possess more power both physically and mentally compared to women. A woman on one hand is believed to be innocent or someone who can never hurt or trouble a man. It is the male who is to be blamed notwithstanding the existence of factual proof and reports against the woman. Boys since their childhood are taught not to cry as the same is a feminine characteristic. To become more masculine, one must never indulge in crying and weeping. Men or boys, thus hesitate to talk about his plight whether in work place, school or matrimonial life. The society asks him to become the protector of women and no matter what, he should respect women at any cost. Now, in today’s world, if we really want a progressive society, this respect or courtesy should be reciprocal in nature.
Different Legal Sections and Acts relating to protection of Women against Sexual Harassment: – Section 354 & 509 of the Indian Penal Code 1860 deals with the criminal sexual assault of a woman to scandalize the same’s modesty and punishment of the individuals for using words, gesture or any other act specifically intended to outrage the women’s modesty respectively. In 1997, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, in Vishakha and others v. State of Rajasthan (AIR 1997 SC 3011), observed that since there were increasing incidents of sexual harassment of working women in all work places, it became imperative to design a mechanism respecting the basic the fundamental rights under Article 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution. Emphasising upon the concept of gender equality, the court further observed that considering the International Conventions and Norms are important for the purpose of meeting the ends of gender equality. This way Vishakha Guidelines were set out in procedural for protecting women in workplaces against sexual harassment. Later in 2013, the Government of India passed out the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. This brand-new legislation sought to protect women from sexual harassment at work places superseded the Vishakha Guidelines. Now, sometime these schemes related to women protection are misused i.e. they are being used in falsely implicating men to wreak vengeance. This misandrist attitude in them has made most men lose their jobs and also lives. Men have suffered mental breakdown after complete social backlash which consequently results in more suicide cases. However, courts in India comprehending the situation prevailing in the country have given justice to these men, reposing in them the trust for judiciary.
Crucial Points to be known to the allegedly accused male employee before filing any complaint against false accusation of sexual harassment of women at workplace: – In a case where one has a false complainant lodged against him for committing a sexual harassment at work place, then there are some legal ways to save him. Firstly, it is important for the accused person to understand and comprehend some crucial points before initiating the action. These points include, having a witness with a character who no matter what supports the aggrieved throughout the trial. Basically, he should maintain his stance on the fact that the person in no way can harm a woman. Location plays a significant role here, as the aggrieved or accused should be able prove that he was not present in the alleged location. A big factor is the relationship between the accused and the woman. In the case where, the accused is at a higher position, then he is vulnerable to such allegations. Therefore, it is important to note the relationship. History of the woman plays an important role in the case. Suppose the woman has History of registering frivolous allegations and the same can be proved through her peers or former relationships or even through cross examinations then accused can prove his innocence. Past romantic relationship between the accused and the woman can put the former in a favourable position to some extent.
Remedies available to the alleged accused to save himself from the clutches of frivolous complaints of sexual harassment in workplaces: – Under the Section 14 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, if the aggrieved woman has lodged a frivolous complainant or simply the allegations made against the accused is false and the woman is aware of the same. Then, in such a case, if an internal committee or any local committee might initiate an inquiry proceeding with the witness providing frivolous evidence or submitting any forged document. Suppose, if it is well proved that the women in fact had lodged a false complaint, then she shall be punished for the same followed by the quashing of the complaint. However, in case the recommendations made by the internal committee are not conclusive in nature or the accused is not satisfied with the same. He may then file an appeal under Section 18 of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. It may be noted this act exclusively deal with cases related to sexual harassment taken place in workplace. Now, the definition of workplace is given in Section 2(o) of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
The pre-essentials of filing a case under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) of 1860 for Defamation: – In case the accused aware of the fact that the woman is trying to defame him, then he may file a complaint under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. This section targets to secure the reputation of the person. It is perhaps that even after the acquittal, the person may find his social image tarnished. This might severely affect his career and overall reputation. To avoid such circumstances, an accused should seek help from this section. Now, it is important to understand some basic ingredients of Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. In Standard Chartered Bank v. Vinay Kumar Sood ( 6th February, 2009), the Hon’ble Delhi High Court gave three important essentials to file a complaint for defamation under Section 499 of the Indian Penal Code. These essentials are as follows: –
- There has to be some publishing of the accusation or imputation concerning the accused.
- It is important that such accusation or charge is made either in writing or is spoken, or by any sign or overt representation.
- Lastly, such accusations must be made with the intention or desire to the harm the reputation of the accused or the person making such charges must have a believe that such charges would harm the reputation of the concerned person.
False Complaints of sexual harassment at workplaces shall not be tolerated: –Nowadays, there are several cases where a working woman after leaving her job files false allegation of sexual assault or harassment against the employer. In one case of Rashi v. Union of India and Ors. (17th July, 2009), the Hon’ble Delhi Court held that any allegation of sexual harassment at workplaces made under Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 shall not be tolerated and consequently be dismissed. The Hon’ble Madras High Court has recently opined to introduce certain amendments in ‘women protection’ laws in order to prevent its misuse and further safeguard the interest of innocent men. despite being innocent, everyone out four man faces false allegations of sexual harassment or rape. It has been pointed that certain law formulated in favour of women protection are being misused to teach a lesson to men by registering frivolous FIRs and complainant. This caravan of false allegations has gone to such an extent that the Hon’ble Supreme Court has called it, “Legal Terrorism”. It is true that there have been many cases of sexual harassment against women which were genuine but men have also been the victims of domestic violence cases.
In, Anita Suresh v. Union of India & Ors. (9th July 2019), Ms. Anita Suresh, the petitioner had filed a writ petition against the orders of the Internal Committee of the ESI Corporation praying to held back the retirement benefits of Mr. O.P Verma, her senior employer (the Respondent) demanding an independent inquiry against him. It may be noted that this petition was in connection to the complaint made in 2011 by the same woman who alleged the respondent of attempting sexual misconduct against her. However, after careful observation of the case and hearing the arguments advanced, the Hon’ble Delhi High Court found concluded that complaint of sexual harassment in workplace against the senior employee, Mr. O.P Verma is frivolous in nature. Thus, the petitioner was charged with fine of Rupees 50,000 which was to be submitted within a period of four weeks in the Delhi High Court Advocates Trust.
There should be a balance between the privileges conferred upon a group and the liability imposed upon the other group i.e. “Equals cannot be treated Unequally”. It is very significant for an accused to comprehend that under the Constitution of India, Article 14 guarantees equality protection of laws and equality before the law. It is based upon the underlying principle to treat every person equally circumstanced alike, both in privileges provided and liabilities imposed. Thus, it is important that the privileges conferred upon the women by different schemes of sexual harassment and liability imposed on men in violating the laws is regulated in just manner. In Virendra Krishna Mishra v Union of India (Civil Appeal No. 9979 of 2014), the Hon’ble Supreme Court, held that Right to Equality is a Fundamental Right and both equal protection of laws and equality before law are quintessential to the same. furthermore, equals cannot be treated unequally. Lastly, in the absence of any valid classification, no equals can be treated unequally.
The Government of India should introduce suitable amendments in laws relating to women protection from sexual harassment in work places or even domestic violence. An egalitarian law should be formulated which confers equal protection to both men and women. Since we have laws to protect women from sexual harassment, laws relating to protection of men from frivolous complainants in relation to sexual harassment should also be introduced. Unavailability of such legislations have put men safety on stake and innocent people are being implicated in frivolous allegations. Furthermore, the society should remove stereotypes in relation to masculinity as the same is causing an obstacle in granting justice to oppressed men. These Stereotypes and few pseudo-feminist movements have made labelled men the ‘potential rapist’. This label has made him more hesitating in speaking his cause, thus making him the enemy of feminist society.
Authored By: Adv. Anant Sharma & Aniket Pandey