Rajasthan High Court Order on sexual harassment in the digital era
On Monday, Rajasthan High Court has made it clear that in the digital age, sending inappropriate messages to a subordinate co-worker beyond office hours would constitute sexual harassment in the workplace.
Justice Sanjeev Prakash Sharma passed the ruling and said posting of the complainant in a different state from the accused would not be a barrier in prosecuting the latter for sexual harassment at the workplace.
In this case, the Chief Manager of the Bank of Baroda was accused of harassing a woman posted in a different State through messages sent beyond working hours.
Since the Bank of Baroda Officer Employees’ (Discipline and Appeal) Regulations, 1976 stated that inquiry could only be initiated if sexual harassment occurred in the workplace, the accused disputed the charges on the ground that no such act had occurred in a common workplace. The Court rejected this contention, observing:
“In the present digital world, workplace for employees working in the Bank and who have earlier worked in the same Branch and later on shifted to different branches which may be situated in different States has to be treated completely as one workplace on a digital platform. Thus, if a person may be posted in Jaipur and acts on a digital platform harassing another lady who may be posted in a different State, it would come within the ambit of being harassed in a common workplace.”
Additionally, it was submitted that the allegedly obscene messages were sent after working hours. The Court rejected this contention as well, observing that the accused held a senior-level position. As such, his work timings were not confined to being between 10.30 am and 4.30 pm.
The Court added that the accused-petitioner fully knew that the complainant was in employment with the Bank and holding a subordinate post. Therefore, sending her such messages after working hours would amount to causing harassment.
Thus, the petitioner’s conduct, in the Court’s view, prima facie fell within the meaning of misconduct under the Bank of Baroda Officer Employees’ (Discipline and Appeal) Regulations, 1976.
Finding the case of the petitioner to be without any basis, the writ petition was accordingly dismissed.