The term Respondent has been defined in Section 2(m) of the Sexual Harassment of Women (Prevention Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 as a person against whom the aggrieved woman has made a complaint.
In an IC investigation, the Respondent has the right to a copy of the written complaint while being called in for a hearing. The respondent has the right to a fair chance to substantiate his/her side of arguments with witnesses along with the right to do a cross-examination.
Legally it’s the right of the respondent to know about the statements the witnesses have brought forward against him, as it is his right under the principle of natural justice.
In the case of Mr. Manjeet Singh vs Indraprastha, the following things were noted:
“An investigation was conducted by ICC under the referred Act, during which three of the Complainant’s witnesses deposed what was reported to them by Ms. Reena Mohanty. The evidence of three witnesses did not corroborate the charge of harassment.”
The Complainant’s version of sexual harassment was not corroborated by any witness.
a)Opportunity was not given for proper cross examination of the witnesses. It cannot be reduced to a verbal duel of mutual allegations.
b)The factual inferences and the conclusions drawn by the ICC were not supported by evidence and hence cannot be sustained.
c)The investigation was carried out in violation of the principles of natural justice. Adherence to natural justice is the foundation of all such investigations.
Take away for the Internal Committee
According to the law following are the rights of the respondent:
- Fair chance of hearing to present their case in a non-biased manner.
- A copy of the statement along with all the evidence and a list of witnesses submitted by the complainant.
- Keeping their identity confidential throughout the process.
In a situation where the Internal Committee is apprehensive of disclosing the details of the witnesses due to anticipation of retaliation from the respondent. The IC can share the witness testimony without disclosing the identity of the witness.
(SLP(C)No.23060/2009) allowed for the identity of the witnesses to not be disclosed to the Respondent and stated that “We further direct that as this appears to be a case of sexual harassment the identity of the witnesses need not be revealed to the respondent or his counsel and for this purpose, the respondent would be entitled to submit the questionnaire which will be put to the witnesses for their answers in writing.”
The IC, therefore, arranged for a written cross-examination and shared the statements of the witness without revealing their identity.