Published on: July 26, 2022 at 20:38 IST
The Delhi High Court has observed that under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act/ SHW Act), a victim’s delay in filing appeal against the inquiry report can be condoned if such a delay is properly explained.
Justice C Hari Shankar added that Section 5 of the Limitation Act (which provides for extension of prescribed period in certain cases) would apply in respect of appeals which may be sought to be preferred under Section18 of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act.
“It would be completely antithetical and inimical to the very scope and purpose of the SHW Act, if a Court were to refuse to condone a delay of as little as 36 days in an alleged victim of sexual harassment preferring an appeal under Section 18 against the report of the inquiry committee. Such a delay – if properly explained – should, clearly, not stand in the way of the appeal of the alleged victim of sexual harassment being decided on merits, by the authority competent to do so,” the Court observed.
The submission of the petitioner company was that since no provision for condonation of delay is to be found in Section18 of the Act, and as Section 18(2) uses the word “shall”, the Tribunal could not have condoned the delay in filing of appeal.
“Unlike the Central Excise Act, which specifically contemplated and provided for condonation of delay under other provisions, but did not so provide in Section 35-H, there is no provision at all in the SHW Act, providing for condonation of delay. In such circumstances, Hongo India cannot be treated as an authority which proscribes recourse to Section 5 of the Limitation Act, where there is delay in preferring in appeal under Section 18 of the SHW Act,” the Court observed.
The Court thus agreed with the observations made by the Industrial Tribunal that a victim of sexual harassment remains in a state of trauma and it cannot be expected that she would immediately rush to a Court seeking appellate remedies.
However, the Court added “Having said that, it is clarified that these observations are only intended to justify the power of condonation of delay, which the learned IT has exercised. They do not, in any manner, amount to an expression of opinion, one way or the other, on the allegations of sexual harassment forming subject matter of proceedings in the present case. They should not, therefore, influence the learned IT in taking a dispassionate view on the appeal filed by the respondent.”
Upholding the impugned order, the Court accordingly dismissed the plea.