False sexual harassment allegations trivialise the offence, harm women empowerment: Delhi HC

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Expressing anguish at the invoking of provisions of sexual harassment “at the drop of a hat” to “register one’s displeasure” at the conduct of another individual, the Delhi High Court said it sets back the cause of women empowerment.

“This merely trivialises the offence of sexual harassment and casts a doubt on the veracity of the allegations filed by every other victim who has in reality faced sexual harassment,” said Justice Subramonium Prasad, while setting aside an FIR registered by Delhi Police under Sections 354A and 506 of the Indian Penal Code against an assistant professor of the Delhi University.

The FIR alleging sexual harassment and criminal intimidation was registered against the accused in February last year on a complaint made by his neighbour. However, the accused told the court that the case was registered in an attempt to coerce and arm-twist him into withdrawing a complaint which had been filed by his wife against the complainant’s son.

The accused and the complainant in the case are neighbours who have long-pending disputes, mainly pertaining to the residential property, the petition filed before the court reveals.

Opposing the petition seeking quashing of the FIR, the police argued before the court that the accused and his wife are habitual complainants and that both of them have filed several complaints regarding the construction that has taken place in their neighbourhood.

The accused was dismissed from an RWA post for abusing his positions and the complaints were solely filed against the residents as he was angry about his removal, the police said.

Justice Prasad in the order said that the contents of the FIR are sketchy in nature and are void of any specifics regarding the offences alleged to have been committed by the accused.

“While this Court is cognizant of the fact that an FIR is not an encyclopedia which must disclose all facts and details, however, in the instant case, a bare reading of the impugned FIR…prima facie indicates that the FIR arises out of bald allegations and contradictory statements,” said the bench.

The court also said that the status report filed by the police also does not reveal anything about the offences being referred to in the FIR.

“The Status Report states that the Petitioner and his wife were habitual complainants and have filed multiple complaints against the construction that would take place in the neighbourhood, and therefore, it is evident that the instant FIR was maliciously instituted with an ulterior motive for wreaking vengeance on the Petitioner, and with a view to spite him and his wife due to a private and personal grudge,” reads the order.

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