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Every unwelcome physical contact not sexual harassment: Delhi HC

03 Novembre 2017

The Delhi High Court in a recent judgment has observed that mere accidental physical contact, even though unwelcome, would not amount to sexual harassment.

The woman employee contended in the High Court that any unwelcome physical contact should be categorised as sexual harassment.

"... All physical contact can not be termed as sexual harassment and only a physical contact or advances which are in the nature of an "unwelcome sexually determined behaviour" would amount to sexual harassment", Justice Vibhu Bakhru said in a judgment pronounced on Tuesday. Both of them were working in the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) which is a part of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR).

The committee concluded that the man might have held the woman's arm and thrown material from her hand in a fit of anger, adding that although the said incident may be a case of harassment and was deplorable, the same would not qualify as a sexual harassment.

Kumar had claimed that the respondent held her arm and any unwelcome physical contact should be categorized as sexual harassment.

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The Complaints Committee after examining her complaint had concluded that "it was a case of altercation in the background of the uncongenial environment prevailing in the division".

Rejecting the woman's appeal, HC ruled out her challenge to the constitution of the committee and the disciplinary authority, saying that there is no infirmity in their setup. "Such physical contact must be in the context of a behaviour which is sexually oriented".

The Delhi High Court, however, noted that "undoubtedly, physical contact or advances would constitute sexual harassment", but only if such a behaviour is part of a "sexually determined behaviour". The disciplinary authority had accepted the committee's report and in October 2009 gave a clean chit to the man.

Recently, a poll found that 37 per cent of people had experienced sexual harassment, ranging from inappropriate comments to sexual assault at work or a place of study.

Every unwelcome physical contact not sexual harassment: Delhi HC