Sexual Harassment at Workplace Is an Affront to Women’s Fundamental Rights: SC

Supreme Court: Suspicion, However Strong, cannot take the place of Proof

A woman employee working in Punjab and Sind Bank, performing the duty of Chief Manager in Scale IV in the branch of Indore, Madhya Pradesh but she was transferred to the branch of Sarsawa in the district of Jabalpur. The intimation about the transfer was furnished on 14th December 2017 and submitted a detailed report to the Zonal Manager in Bhopal on 31st December 2016 concerning the lapses such as the existence of duplicate Bank Guarantee registers and those registers weren’t identical and certain entries were missing from the register. In her observation, she found limits sanctioned to such parties which didn’t have any connection with Indore for the execution of liquor contracts. Later, she was pressurised to cover up the misdemeanours at the level of Branch. These actions were performed by the Zonal Manager, who used to call her at his home in later hours to discuss business which wasn’t urgent and the allegation of respondent against Zonal Manager was specific. Moreover, she was transferred to a small rural area at the distance about 600 Kilometres, which would be headed by Scale –I officer not by an officer to Scale-IV of the bank. She was informed that the transfer was following administrative and service exigencies and need to join the post, immediately. The order of transfer was challenged in the High Court of Madhya Pradesh under Article 226 of the Constitution of India in which the transfer was stayed by a learned Single Judge and transfer of the Scale-IV officer was quashed by the Judge to the judgment pronounced on 11th February 2019. The Judge mentioned that orders are not ordinarily interfered with the exercise of Judicial Review; the transfer of Respondent violates the circulars of the bank as well as the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Finance. 

Mr Colin Gonsalves, the counsel representing the Respondent submitted that “…there has been a gross suppression of fact on the part of the appellants in moving this Court. It has been urged that four sets of vital documents have not been brought to the attention of this Court”. Further, he added that the documents concerning the transfer of Respondent were modified to transfer to the branch office in Sarsawa where the Respondent would continue working in Administrative Control of same Zonal Office. Later, he submitted before the bench that “how the order of transfer was affected close on the heels of the allegations of corruption levelled by the respondent would indicate a clear case of malafides. It was urged that the respondent who was a Scale-IV officer, was posted to a Scale I level bank in the teeth of the Board Resolution dated 27 September 2017, approving the policy concerning the classification of branches”. They added that “…this is symptomatic of a carrot and stick policy adopted to suborn the dignity of a woman who is aggrieved by unfair treatment at her workplace. The law cannot countenance this. The order of transfer was an act of unfair treatment and is vitiated by malafides”.

The bench ordered that the respondent shall be reposted at the branch office of Indore as a Scale-IV officer for a period of one year. Later, if any administrative exigency arises the competent authority of the bank would be at the liberty to take any appropriate decision concerning her posting following the law. The Respondent made to entitle 50,000 INR which need to be received within one month and order of the Supreme Court affirmed with the decision of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh. 


  • The decision to this matter was heard by Justices D.Y Chandrachud and Ajay Rastogi.
  • Sexual harassment at the workplace is an affront to the fundamental rights of a woman, the Supreme Court remarked while upholding a High Court judgment that quashed a transfer of a woman bank employee.
  • Clause (c) of Section 4(2) indicates that one member of the ICC has to be drawn from amongst a non-governmental organization or association committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with issues relating to sexual harassment. 
  • The bench also said that she will be entitled to a cost of Rs. 50,000. 
  • The order of transfer was an act of unfair treatment and is vitiated by malafides.

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje


  • Punjab & Sind Bank and Others vs. Mrs Durgesh Kuwar,  Civil Appeal No 1809 of 2020, Arising out of SLP(C) No 11985 of 2019