In a major contravention of rules, state law minister Kusum Singh Mehadele has intervened in a sexual harassment case at the office of the state chief electoral officer (CEO) despite the internal complaints committee's ruling in the matter.
The internal committee which probed the case had found the sexual harassment complaint of a woman contract employee against the former personal secretary of the CEO to be true. However, the law minister has asked the committee to hear the accused employee again.
Mehadele defended her move saying it had been brought to her notice that the accused had not been given proper opportunity of hearing.
"I have asked that this opportunity should be given so that the inquiry is completed properly and proper action is initiated. Accused should not be spared," she said.
In its report dated May 7, 2014, the committee had recommended that either the accused employee should tender a written apology or a condemnation letter should be issued against him.
The incident of sexual harassment had occurred on December 2, 2013.
Following the report of the ICC, a proposal to stop one increment of the accused employee was approved by the additional chief electoral officer in June this year.
However, in a major contravention of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013, the law minister directed that the reply of the accused employee should be put before the committee again.
The CEO office is administratively under the state law department.
The HT has a copy of the note sheet with the minister's directive (dated August 6, 2014) in its possession.
The HT also has the copy of the inquiry report of the ICC in its possession, which clearly shows that the accused employee had been at every stage given opportunity to present his view, version and evidences in the case. This makes the minister’s directive irrelevant, sources said.
According to the 2013 Act, the employer has to take action on the report of the ICC within 60 days of receiving it. There is no provision of any other authority to intervene in the matter.
Interpreting the Act, assistant professor with National Law Institute University (NLIU) Raka Arya said that as per the law, the employer has to take action on the basis of the ICC report as the employer is responsible for well-being of the employees.
In the present context, the CEO is the 'employer' of the complainant as well as the accused.
Social activist Ajay Dubey, who had taken up the case initially with the chief secretary and the Election Commission, said that it was surprising that the law minister illegally intervened in sexual harassment case.
"We demand that she should be immediately dropped from the cabinet," he said.
When contacted, chief electoral officer Jaideep Govind only said the ICC was reviewing the case and the accused was being given another chance to put forth his version.