Punjab IAS officer accused of sexual harassment: Questions over Vishaka guidelines

Kanchan Vasdev
Chandigarh news, Sexual harrassment case, IAS office, PCS, IAS officer sexual harrassment case, Punjab police news, Indian Express

The Punjab State Commission for Women had sought a report from the government on the incident Tuesday. (Representational image)

Five days have passed since a PCS officer accused an IAS officer of sexual harassment in Punjab. However, though the IAS officer was transferred Tuesday on the orders of Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh, the state government, it is learnt, is yet to hand over the matter to an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) as per the Vishaka guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court.

The Punjab State Commission for Women had sought a report from the government on the incident Tuesday.

The PCS officer had met Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh last Friday and informed him about “advances” by her colleague at the workplace. On Tuesday, the officer was transferred to the Home Department, a move that had raised a lot of eyebrows, with many calling it a prized posting. Government functionaries however argued that the officer had been accomodated as a “fill in”.

An official said the state government had, when the Vishaka guidelines came into force, announced department-level ICCs to be headed by the senior-most woman officer of each department. But another official told The Indian Express, “The department has not received any communication that her (the PCS officer) case should be heard by ICC.”

A senior lawyer of the Punjab and Haryana High Court on condition of anonymity said, “It is mandatory for the government to conduct a proper inquiry into any such complaint. It cannot be a hush-hush matter. The initial authority that receives the complaint has to forward it to ICC and then take action as per law. One cannot bypass the law. The provisions have to be followed.”

The chief secretary was not available for comment. Raveen Thukral, media advisor to chief minister, said, “Whatever action needs to be taken will be taken.”

‘Mere transfer is no deterrent’: Devinder

Ex-deputy Speaker of Vidhan Sabha and senior vice-president of the Taksali Akali Dal Bir Devinder Singh said merely transferring an officer accused of sexual harassment is “no deterrent”.

In a statement, he said, “No tangible action appeared to have been taken. I wonder why the government has not suspended the offender forthwith and handed over the case to police for appropriate action. Mere transfer of the IAS officer in a sexual harassment case is no deterrent...”

The statement further said, “The statement of the PCS officer before the chief secretary in the presence of her colleagues is apparently sufficient evidence to hold the IAS officer prima-facie guilty and place him under suspension with immediate effect. The government should also hold an on-camera inquiry as per the explicit and mandatory guidelines of the Supreme Court...and if the officer in question is found guilty of inappropriate behaviour...his dismissal must be recommended to UPSC.”

“The complainant PCS officer must have suffered indescribable indignation by the outrageously shameful conduct of the IAS officer in question, before she mustered courage to report the matter...Ironically, the complete inaction of the state government in this matter indicates...covert operation to bury the matter, without giving exemplary punishment,” the statement added.