CASE: Sanjeev Mishra v. Bank of Baroda & Ors.
CORAM: Hon’ble Justice Sanjeev Prakash Sharma
The Rajasthan High Court’s Jaipur Bench has made it clear that posting the complainant in a different state from the accused would not be an obstacle to suing the accused for sexual harassment in the workplace in the digital age.
Justice Sanjeev Prakash Sharma said in the present case, “In the present digital world, work place 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 work place on a digital platform”.
BACKGROUND OF THE CASE
A petition filed by the Chief Manager of the Bank of Baroda, accused of sexual harassment by a subordinate employee, seeking to quash a charge sheet issued to him by the Bank’s Disciplinary Authority.
The Petitioner said that the Authority did not have the jurisdiction in this matter for the following reasons:
- The petitioner was working in a different State while the complainant who has lodged a complaint for sexual harassment is in another State. It was contended that in terms of Bank of Baroda Officer Employees’ (Discipline and Appeal) Regulations, 1976, inquiry could have been initiated only when the petitioner commits any sexual harassment at the work place. Since the petitioner is different from that of the complainant, charge sheet could not have been issued to the petitioner and no inquiry could be conducted.
- The allegation in the charge sheet relating to sending of obscene messages is after working hours and therefore, also charge sheet is misconceived and inquiry could not have been conducted.
FINDINGS OF THE COURT
The Court stated that in the modern digital world, the workplace on a digital network must be viewed entirely as “one workplace” for workers employed in various branches/states.
It further held that,
“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 work place.”
By denying the petitioner’s second contention, the Court noted that, even if messages were sent after working hours, harassment would be induced and, prima facie, under the Regulations of 1976 it would mean misconduct.
The Court had made it clear in the present facts of the case that the petitioner held the position of Chief Manager and the work schedules for senior officers could not be taken into account on their own between 10:30 AM and 4:30 PM alone.