In a reprieve for consultancy firm KPMG India, the Bombay high court on Wednesday stayed the inquiry initiated by the National Commission for Women (NCW) into a complaint made by a former associate director of the firm alleging sexual harassment.
Acting on a petition filed by KPMG India, a division bench of Justice VM Kanade and Justice MS Sonak directed the NCW not to proceed with the inquiry till the next hearing on December 16.
The bench granted the stay primarily on the ground that the NCW has no authority to deliver judgment on individual complaints of sexual harassment at workplace.
The firm approached court after it received a fresh notice from NCW, which has set up a three-member committee to enquire into the allegations, calling upon its representatives to be present for the final hearing.
KPMG India has challenged the validity of the proceedings, contending that NCW is a recommendatory body on women’s issues and that the National Commission for Women Act does not empower it to adjudicate individual complaints.
It has also argued that NCW took up the complaint suddenly and that inquiry proceedings were being conducted behind its back, without notices being issued and copies of documents pertaining to the matter being provided.
Despite letters and reminders, the NCW has not given the firm copies of documents so as to enable it to defend itself, the firm’s lawyer said, adding that the complainant’s statement was recorded without the firm’s representatives being present.
According to KPMG India’s petition, the complainant joined the firm in September 2005 as associate director, financial services, and her services were terminated in November 2006 because of “the manner in which she dealt with an important overseas client”.
filed by KPMG India, the complainant woman had joined the consultancy firm in September 2005 as an associate director of financial services and her services were terminated in November 2006 because of “the manner in which she dealt with an important overseas client.”
She did not lodge any complaint of any sexual harassment during her tenure in office.
It said that the complainant was unhappy from the start as she had not got a senior post.
She also did not file any complaint about the work environment or sexual harassment during her employment, it said.
The allegations were made in April 2007, months after she quit.