In a judgment dated 16th January, 2020, the Goa High Court in the case of Ruchika Kedia vs. The Internal Complaints, Goa Institute of Management and others quashed the inquiry report of the Internal Committee and directed the Goa Institute of Management (“Institute”) to comply with their regulations and constitute an Internal Committee in compliance with the Regulations.
FACTS: The Petitioner, a student of the Institute, filed a Complaint against the Respondent no. 2 in the present matter which, without dispute, was to be handled by the IC constituted under the Grievance Redressal Mechanism constituted under the relevant regulations applicable to the University (“Regulations”). As per the said regulations, the constitution of the IC required:
- one (woman) Presiding Officer,
- two faculty members and two non-teaching employees,
- three students and
- one external member committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment.
The IC filed their inquiry report on 12th February, 2019 (“Inquiry Report”). However, the IC contained only one non-teaching employee, the three students did not participate in the inquiry process and the external member was a professor in the Institute. The Inquiry Report was challenged by the Petitioner herein on grounds that the Regulations of the Institute were not adhered to in constituting the IC and the Inquiry Report was thus liable to be set aside.
ARGUMENTS: It was the contention of the Petitioner that the terms of the Regulations in constitution of the IC of the Institute were not complied with as:
- instead of two non-teaching members, contained only one such member,
- the external member was also a professor at the Institute and
- the three students did not participate in the inquiry process.
HELD: The Court held in favour of the Petitioner that the IC was, in fact, improperly constituted and the Inquiry Report prepared by such IC was quashed. It said, “… it does appear that the three students were not, strictly speaking, a part of the ICC. In any case, the three students were not involved in the inquiry process. The Regulations contemplate that the complaint of sexual harassment is inquired into by the Committee. From the contents of the aforesaid paragraphs, we agree with Ms. Collasso that the three students were not involved at all stages of the inquiry. To that extent, there was infirmity in the constitution of the Committee.”
With respect to the presence of external member, the Court said that, “…there is nothing on record to indicate that Ms. Nila Nayak was a member of some non-government organizations or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment. Besides, the affidavit states that Ms. Nila Nayak was a Professor at the Institution. According to us, therefore, there is no compliance with sub-clause (d) of Regulation 4 (1) of the said Regulations, as well.” It also relied on Ruchika Singh Chhabra vs. M/s. Air France India and another (Delhi High Court judgment that we have summarised here) for this.
The Court also directed the Institute to comply with the responsibilities of the Institute with regards to notifying the provisions of sexual harassment and ensuring their wide dissemination, creating awareness about what constitutes sexual harassment including hostile environment harassment and quid pro quo harassment, including in its prospectus and display prominently at conspicuous places or Notice Boards the penalty and consequences of sexual harassment, informing employees and students of the recourse available to them if they are victims of sexual harassment and Organising regular orientation or training programmes for the members of the ICC to deal with complaints, steer the process of settlement or conciliation, etc., with sensitivity.
– Adv. Shivangi Prasad – Corporate Lawyer, External Member & Trainer, Head – Legal & Compliance, Partner POSH at Work