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All unwelcome physical contact not sexual harassment, says Delhi HC

The court observation came after a scientist challenged the clean chit to her former senior colleague, whom she had accused of sexual harassment.

delhi Updated: Nov 02, 2017 23:57 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
New Delhi, Hindustan Times
Sexual harassment,Delhi high court,Physical contact
A CRRI scientist had contended that any unwelcome physical contact would amount to sexual harassment.(File Photo)

Every unwelcome physical contact cannot be categorised as sexual harassment, the Delhi high court ruled.

The court made the observation on Tuesday while dismissing the appeal by an employee of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), who had charged a colleague with sexual harassment.

The woman alleged the accused barged into a laboratory where she was working, stopped the machine and snatched the samples from her. He then pushed her out of the laboratory and locked it.

Justice Vibhu Bakhru of the high court said “…only a physical contact or advances which are in the nature of an ‘unwelcome sexually determined behaviour’ would amount to sexual harassment”.

“This court does not find that the said conclusion to be perverse or without application of mind as was contended on behalf of the petitioner,” the judge said.

The court upheld the decision of his organisation’s complaints committee and disciplinary authority, which cleared him of all charges of sexual harassment.

The committee said evidence show the man held the woman’s arm but that act was an altercation, not a sexually determined behaviour.

It concluded that the man might have held the woman’s arm and thrown the material she was holding in a fit of anger. That amounts to harassment and is deplorable, but would not qualify as sexual harassment.

The disciplinary authority, which was set up subsequently, supported the committee’s report.

The high court judge too agreed that “a physical contact which has no undertone of a sexual nature … may not necessarily amount to sexual harassment”.

First Published: Nov 02, 2017 19:18 IST