Case Title: XYZ Vs. State of Madhya Pradesh and Others
Bench: Justices Dhananjay Y Chandrachud and JB Pardiwala
Case No: Criminal Appeal No. 1184 of 2022
Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that the police should not create hurdles by refusing to register FIRs despite receiving complaints of sexual harassment.
A bench of Justice Dhananjay Y Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala said, “It is important for all courts to be aware of the fact that the legal process for victims of sexual harassment and assault becomes even more difficult for the complainants, who Struggling with trauma and social shame due to potentially unfair stigma."
In this case the appellant was working as a yoga instructor in Lakshmibai National Institute of Physical Education, Gwalior. The second respondent, at the time, was the Vice Chancellor of the Institute.
The appellant alleges that the second respondent touched her inappropriately in the institution, upon which she dissociated herself and shouted at her. An FIR was registered against the respondent.
The appellant moved the Madhya Pradesh High Court with a complaint that no investigation was being conducted into his allegations, which were to be investigated under the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Protection and Redressal) Act, 2013.
An appeal has been filed against the decision of a single judge in the Gwalior Bench of the High Court of Madhya Pradesh, dismissing an application under Section 482 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.
The issue of consideration before the bench was:
The bench said that it is the duty of the police to register an FIR whenever there is any cognizable offense in the complaint.
The Supreme Court observed that “the inaction of the police in this matter is most unfortunate. It is the duty of every police officer to do his work with public sentiment. The police should be aware of the fact that they are usually the first point of contact for the victim or complainant of a crime. They should abide by the law and enable smooth registration of FIRs. Needless to say, he should treat all members of the public in a fair and impartial manner. This is even more necessary in cases of sexual harassment or violence, where the victims (who are usually women) face great social stigma while trying to file a complaint.”
The bench said the courts should endeavor to ensure that the process of trying to bring the alleged perpetrators to justice is not difficult for the victims. Victims should not wander from door to door just to register complaint and initiate investigation, especially when their complaint constitutes a prima facie cognizable offence.
In view of the above, the Supreme Court allowed the appeal.