A Delhi Court’s order has suggested that using sexist language against women may be an Indian Penal Code (IPC) offence.
The case in question involved a woman filing a complaint with the police against her manager for using a sexist slur against her. The police registered the complaint, and in February, the magisterial court found merit in the complaint. The man was charged with insulting a woman’s modesty and sexual harassment.
The man went on to file a plea against the magisterial court, in a sessions court. The sessions court too, however, has refused to drop the charges. The court observed that the woman’s allegations against the man were “specific” and held merit.
While turning down his plea, the court said that using sexist language against women can attract charges of sexual harassment under the IPC.
The Defense Undermines Complaint As Being False, But Court Concludes It To Have Merit
The woman’s complaint described the incident as having occurred the “previous” month, when her manager directed the sexist slur at her while sitting at her desk. Her complaint states that she brought the incident to the notice of her reporting manager, but was told by him to ignore it if she wished to continue working at the organisation.
The man’s plea against this complaint noted that the complaint didn’t specify an exact date and time when the incident had occurred. His counsel highlighted the fact that the complaint had not been recorded before court under Section 164 of Code of Criminal Procedure.
The defence went on to claim that the woman had filed this false complaint against the man, a sales manager, when asked to resign due to professional incompetence.
Sessions judge Dharmender Rana responded to the defense saying, “At the stage of framing of charge, the court cannot brush aside the statement of the complainant wherein she had levelled specific allegations against the accused.”
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He noted that the charge couldn’t be dismissed at the “very outset without testing it upon the anvil of trial”, just because the woman could not recall the exact time and date of the incident.
Additionally, the judge ruled that the woman not recording her statement in court wasn’t grounds to discharge the man either. Reasons were required to be recorded by the trial court, he said, only if the court had come to the conclusion that the accused deserved to be discharged.
Referring to the Supreme Court’s judgement on Sheoraj Singh Ahlawat vs State of UP case, the court observed that what was to be considered was the ground for presuming the accused had committed the offence, not the ground for convicting him.
Judge Rana said, “It is settled in law that at the stage of charge, the court is not required to meticulously weigh the evidence. Discrepancies, if any, in the statement of the complainant are a matter of trial. The complaint is also duly signed by the complainant.”
So, the man’s plea was dismissed and the charge against him remains.
Sexism In The Workplace Is Rampant And Court Recognising It As An Offence Is A Step In The Right Direction
Be it less conspicuously in the form of lack of gender-inclusive organisational policies, or overtly sexist language used in the office, women in the workforce continue to face unchecked sexism.
While such things as sexism when it comes to hiring or promotions are easier to measure and study, verbal and non-verbal sexist behaviour in the workplace often goes unreported, and therefore harder to prevent. Such things as being made to sound resentful, crazy, or asked to ignore the incident of sexism – as the complainant woman faced – are still common in workplaces across the globe.
Not all of these incidents come under sexual harassment, however, and there needs to be a more comprehensive understanding by the judicial system of how sexism manifests in workplaces and everyday lives. However, it being acknowledged as a serious offence by the judiciary in the first place, is a step in the right direction.
Have you ever faced sexism in the workplace? Tell us in the comments, or you can share your experience in a trusted community of women like you, who guide, support, and build each other up on the Kool Kanya Community.
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