, a RAW Director, attempted suicide outside the PMO after her complaint of sexual harassment against colleague Sunil Uke, IAS, was held untenable by her bosses. “She could not furnish any proof of her allegations,” said RAW chief, Ashok Chaturvedi, adding, “There are serious charges against her of gross indiscipline.”
Whatever pans out as the truth in this case, sexual harassment at the workplace are realities to be dealt with. In an attitudinal reversal of the spirit of the law, women who speak up are themselves held to be “guilty” until they prove their “innocence.” Society, mostly male, tends to close ranks against women who speak out, as troublemakers. Consider these shocking instances:
* Nalini Netto, (left) IAS officer, then Transport Secretary, Kerala, was summoned to the office of Transport Minister A Neelalohitadasan Nadar at the Kerala Assembly complex for a meeting on December 21, 1999. According to the charge-sheet filed by R S Mooshahary, then crime branch head, the minister grappled with her and forcibly tried to kiss her leaving minor injuries on her lip and right index finger.
She ran out of the room in tears. Now the Chief Election Officer of the state, Nalini shuttles from one court to another. A fast track court hearing her case adjourned at least 21 times. It took her a year to be able to file her FIR.
* Once Netto’s case came up, Prakriti Srivastava, an Indian Forest Service officer, filed a similar complaint, forcing Chief Minister E K Nayanar to dump Nadar. In Prakriti's case Nadar was sentenced to one-year jail by the trial court and the appellate court at Kozhikode upheld the conviction. The case is before the High Court now.
* Gayatri Panda, a woman marshal in the Orissa Legislative Assembly (OLA), lodged an FIR in the Mahila Police Station in March this year accusing (the then) Speaker Maheswar Mohanty of persistent harassment. The charges kicked off a statewide uproar and Mohanty had to step down. Panda wrote to the Secretary of the Assembly in February saying, "Do you think that because of my job I have to oblige everybody by giving (away) my self-respect and dignity"? The government asked the Orissa Human Rights Commission to conduct an inquiry. However, the OHRC probe found no credible evidence against Mohanty and dropped the case.
* In Chhattisgarh, two tribal women, Lily Kujur and Sharda Tiknu, both government employees, are presently trying seek justice in the courts against sexual harassment by their IAS bosses last year.
(With inputs from Renuka Narayanan)