Topic: Apparel Export Promotion Council vs A.K. Chopra

The Supreme Court in this case declared that sexual harassment is gender discrimination against women and also said that any act or attempt of molestation by a superior will constitute sexual harassment.

Apparel Export Promotion Council vs A.K. Chopra
Bench: Dr. Anand, Cji  & V.N.Khare - Date Of Judgment: 20/01/1999

Judgment:
Dr. Anand, Cji 


Special Leave granted.

# Does an action of the superior against a female employee which is against moral sanctions and does not    withstand test of decency and    modesty     not amount    to sexual harassment?

# Is physical contact with     the female    employee an essential ingredient of such a charge?

# Does the allegation that the superior tried to molest     a female    employee at the place of work, not constitute    an act unbecoming of good conduct and behaviour expected    from the superior?

These are some of the questions besides

     the nature    of approach expected from the law courts to cases involving sexual harassment which come to the forefront and require     our consideration. Reference to the facts giving rise to the filing of the present Appeal by Special Leave at this stage is appropriate : The respondent was working as a Private     Secretary to    the Chairman of the Apparel Export Promotion Council, the appellant herein. It    was alleged that on 12.8.1988, he tried to molest a woman employee of the Council, Miss X (name withheld by us) who was at     the relevant time working as a Clerk-cum-Typist.    She was     not competent or trained to take dictations. The respondent, however, insisted that she go with him to the Business Centre    at Taj Palace Hotel for taking dictation from     the Chairman and type out the matter. Under the pressure of the respondent, she went    to take the    dictation from     the Chairman. While Miss X was waiting for the Director in the room, the respondent    tried to sit too close    to her     and despite     her objection     did not give up his objectionable behaviour. She later on took dictation from the Director. The respondent told her to type it at the Business Centre of the Taj Palace Hotel, which is located in the Basement of the Hotel. He offered to help her so that her typing     was not found fault with by the Director.     He volunteered to show her the Business Centre for getting the matter typed and taking advantage of the isolated place, again tried to sit close to her and touch her despite her objections.     The draft typed matter was corrected by Director (Finance)     who asked Miss X to retype the same. The respondent again went with her to the Business Centre and repeated his overtures. Miss X told the respondent that she would leave the place if he    continued to behave like that.    The respondent    did not stop. Though he went out from the Business Centre for a while,    he again came back and resumed his objectionable acts.    According to Miss X, the respondent had tried to molest    her physically in the lift also while coming to     the basement but she saved herself by pressing the emergency button,     which made the door of the lift to open. On     the next day, that is on 16th August, 1988 Miss X was unable to meet the Director (Personnel) for lodging her complaint against     the respondent as he was busy. She succeeded in meeting     him only on    17th August, 1988 and     apart    from narrating the    whole incident to him    orally    submitted a written     complaint also. The respondent was placed under suspension vide an order dated 18th August, 1988. A charge-sheet was served on him to which he gave a reply denying     the allegations and asserting that the allegations were imaginary and motivated.    Shri J.D. Giri, a Director of the     Council, was appointed as an    Enquiry     Officer to enquire into the charges framed against the respondent. On behalf of the management with a view to prove the charges as many as six witnesses were examined including Miss X.     The respondent also examined seven witnesses.    The Enquiry Officer     after considering the documentary and oral evidence and the circumstances of the case arrived at the conclusion that the respondent had acted against moral sanctions     and that his acts against Miss X did not withstand the test of decency     and modesty.     He, therefore, held    the charges levelled against the    respondent as proved.    The Enquiry Officer in his report recorded the following, amongst other, findings : 8.1. Intentions of Shri A.K. Chopra were ostensibly manifested in his actions and behaviour; Despite reprimands from Miss X he continued to act against moral sanctions; 8.2. Dictation and subsequent typing of     the matter provided Shri A.K. Chopra necessary opportunity to take Miss X to the Business     Centre     a secluded place. Privacy in the Business Centre room made his ulterior motive explicit and clear; 8.3. Any other conclusion on technical niceties which     Shri A.K. Chopra tried to purport did     not withstand the test of decency and modesty.

The Enquiry Officer concluded that Miss X was molested by the respondent at Taj Palace Hotel on 12th August,    1988 and that the respondent had tried to touch her person in the Business Centre with ulterior motives despite reprimands by her. The Disciplinary Authority agreeing with the report of the Enquiry Officer, imposed the penalty of removing     him from service with immediate effect on 28th    June, 1989. Aggrieved, by    an order of    removal     from service,     the respondent filed a departmental appeal before the Staff Committee of the appellant. It appears that there was some difference of    opinion     between the Members of the Staff Committee and the Chairman of the Staff Committee during the hearing, but before any decision could be arrived at by the Staff Committee, the    respondent, on the basis of    some unconfirmed minutes of the Staff Committee meeting, filed a Writ Petition in the High Court inter alia challenging     his removal     from service.     On January 30, 1992, the    Writ Petition was allowed and respondent Nos. 1 and 3, therein, were directed    to act     upon the decision of the Staff Committee, assuming as if the decision, as alleged, had been taken at the 34th Meeting of the Staff Committee on    25th July, 1990. The appellant challenged the judgment and order of the High Court dated 30th January, 1992, through Special Leave Petition (Civil) No.3204 of 1992 in this Court. While setting aside the judgment and order of the High Court dated 30th January, 1992, a Division Bench of this Court opined : We have been taken through the proceedings of the meeting starting from    33rd meeting upto 38th meeting by both     the learned Counsel appearing for the    respective parties. Considering the same    it appears to us that    the alleged decision taken on the said Agenda No.5 in the 33rd and 34th meeting is in dispute and final decision on the same has not yet been taken and the alleged resolution on the said    Item No.5 still awaits ratification.     In that view of the matter, the High Court was wrong in deciding the disputed question of fact in favour of Respondent No.1.     We, therefore     set aside the impugned order of     the Delhi High Court as according to us the final decision on the resolution taken on the said Agenda No.5 has not yet been finally ratified. We are not inclined to consider the other questions sought to be raised in this appeal and the said questions are kept open.    In view of the pendency of the matter for a    long time, we direct the appellantcompany to convene the meeting of Staff Committee as early as practicable but not exceeding two months from today so that the question of    ratification of the resolution on the said Agenda No.5 taken in     the meeting of the Staff Committee is finally decided.

Pursuant    to the above directions, the Staff Committee met again and considered the entire issue and came to     the conclusion that the order passed by the Director General terminating the services of the respondent on     28th June, 1989 was legal, proper and valid. The appeal was dismissed and the removal of the respondent for causing sexual harassment to     Miss X was    upheld.     The respondent, thereupon, filed Writ Petition No.352 of 1995 in the    High Court,    challenging his removal from service as well as     the decision of the Staff Committee dismissing his departmental appeal.     The learned Single Judge allowing the Writ Petition opined    that ... the petitioner tried to molest and    not that the petitioner had in fact molested the complainant. The learned Single Judge, therefore, disposed of the    Writ Petition with a direction that the respondent be reinstated in service but that he would not be entitled to receive any back wages. The appellant was directed to consider the period    between     the date of removal of the respondent    from service and the date of reinstatement as the period spent on duty and to give him consequential promotion and all other benefits. It was, however, directed that the respondent be posted    in any other office outside Delhi, at least for a period    of two years. The appellant being aggrieved by     the order of reinstatement filed Letters Patent Appeal No.27 of 1997 before the Division Bench of the High    Court.     The respondent also filed Letters Patent Appeal No.79 of    1997 claiming back wages and appropriate posting. Some of the lady employees of the appellant on coming to know about the judgment of the learned Single Judge, directing     the reinstatement of the respondent, felt agitated and filed an application seeking intervention in the pending L.P.A.     The Division Bench     vide judgment and order dated     15th July, 1997, dismissed the L.P.A. filed by the appellant against the reinstatement of the respondent.    The Division Bench agreed    with the findings recorded by the learned Single Judge that the respondent had tried to molest and that he had not actually molested Miss X and that he     had not managed     to make the slightest physical contact with    the lady and went on to hold that such an act of the respondent was not a sufficient ground for his dismissal from service. Commenting upon the evidence, the Division Bench observed : We have been taken in detail through    the evidence/deposition of     Miss X. No part of that evidence discloses that     A.K.    Chopra    even managed to make     the slightest physical contact with the     lady.     The entire deposition relates that A.K. Chopra tried to touch her. As we have said    that no attempts made,     allegedly by    A.K. Chopra,     succeeded in making physical contact with Miss X, even in the narrow confines of a Hotel lift. To our mind, on such evidence as that was produced before    the Enquiry Officer, it is not even possible to come to a conclusion that there is an attempt to molest as there have been    no physical contact. There being no physical contact between A.K. Chopra and Miss X, there cannot be any     attempt to tried to molest on the part of A.K. Chopra.    (Emphasis ours)

Aggrieved     by the judgment of the Division Bench,     the employer- appellant has filed this appeal by special leave. We have heard learned counsel for the parties and perused the record. The Enquiry Officer has     found    the charges established against the respondent. He has concluded    that the respondent     was guilty of molestation and had tried to physically assault Miss X. The findings recorded by     the Enquiry     Officer and the Disciplinary Authority had    been confirmed by the Appellate Authority (the Staff Committee) which admittedly had co-extensive powers to re-appreciate the evidence as regards the guilt as well as about     the nature    of punishment to be imposed on the respondent.     The Staff    Committee while dealing with the question     of punishment has observed : Shri Chopra has also mentioned in his     appeal     that the penalty on    him was harsh     and disproportionate to the charge levelled against him.     On this, the Staff Committee observed that no lenient    view would be justified in a case of molestation    of a woman employee when    the charge was fully proved.    Any lenient action    in such a case would have a demoralizing effect on the working women. The Staff Committee, therefore, did not accept    the plea of Shri Chopra that a lenient view be taken in his case.

The learned Single Judge, did not     doubt     the correctness of     the occurrence. He did not disbelieve     the complainant. On a re- appreciation of the evidence on     the record,     the learned Single Judge, however, drew his     own inference and    found that the respondent had tried     to molest    but since he had not actually molested the complainant, therefore, the action of the respondent did not warrant removal from    service. The learned Single Judge while directing the reinstatement of the respondent observed : 15.    In the totality of facts and circumstances, ends of justice     would    meet if the petitioner is reinstated in service but he would not be entitled to any back wages.     The Council shall consider this period as on duty and would give him consequential promotion to the petitioner. He shall be entitled to all benefits except back wages. The petitioner shall be posted in any other office outside Delhi, at least for a period of two years." (Emphasis ours)

The Division Bench of    the High Court     also while dismissing the L.P.A.    filed by the appellant did not doubt the correctness of the occurrence. It also concluded    that since the respondent had not actually molested Miss X     and had only tried to assault her and had not managed to make any physical contact with her, a case of his removal    from service was not made out. Both the learned Single Judge and the Division Bench did not doubt the correctness of     the following facts : 1. That Miss X     was a     subordinate employee while     the respondent was the superior officer in the organization; 2. That Miss X was not qualified to take any dictation and had so told the respondent; 3. That the respondent pressurized     her to come with him to Taj Palace Hotel to take dictation despite her protestation, with an ulterior design; 4. That the respondent taking advantage of his position, tried to molest Miss X and in spite of her protestation, continued with    his activities     which were against     the moral sanctions and did not withstand the    test of decency and modesty; 5. That the respondent tried to sit too close to Miss X with ulterior motives and all along Miss X kept reprimanding him but to no avail;    6. That the respondent was     repeating his     implicit unwelcome sexual advances and Miss X told him that if he continued to behave in that fashion, she would leave that place; 7. That     the respondent acted in a manner which demonstrated unwelcome sexual advances, both directly and by implication; 8.    That action    of the respondent created an intimidated and hostile working environment in so far as Miss X is concerned.

The above facts are borne out from the evidence on the record    and on the basis of these facts, the departmental authorities keeping in view the fact that the actions of the respondent were considered to be subversive of    good discipline and     not conducive     to proper working in     the appellant Organization where there were a number of female employees, took action against the respondent and removed him from service. The High Court appears to    have over-looked the settled position that in    departmental proceedings, the Disciplinary Authority is the sole Judge of facts and in case an appeal is presented to the Appellate Authority, the     Appellate Authority has also the power/and jurisdiction to re-appreciate the evidence and come to     its own conclusion, on facts, being the     sole fact finding authorities. Once findings of fact, based on    appreciation of evidence are recorded, the High Court in    Writ Jurisdiction may not normally interfere with those factual findings unless it finds that the recorded findings    were based either on no evidence or that the findings were wholly perverse and/or legally untenable.     The adequacy     or inadequacy of the evidence is not permitted to be canvassed before    the High Court.     Since, the High Court does not     sit as an    Appellate Authority, over the factual findings recorded during departmental proceedings, while exercising the power of judicial review, the High Court cannot normally speaking substitute its own conclusion, with regard to     the guilt of the    delinquent, for that of the    departmental authorities. Even insofar as imposition of penalty or punishment is    concerned, unless the punishment or penalty imposed     by the Disciplinary or the Departmental Appellate Authority, is    either impermissible or such that it shocks the conscience     of the High Court, it should not normally substitute its own opinion and impose some other punishment or penalty. Both the learned Single Judge and the Division Bench    of the     High Court,    it appears, ignored     the well-settled principle that even though Judicial Review of administrative action must remain flexible and its dimension not closed, yet the    Court in exercise of the power of judicial review is not concerned with the correctness of the findings of fact on the basis of which the orders are    made so long as those findings are reasonably supported by evidence and have been arrived at through proceedings which cannot    be faulted with for    procedural illegalities or irregularities    which vitiate    the process by which     the decision was arrived    at. Judicial Review,    it must be remembered, is     directed not against the decision, but is confined to the examination of the decision-making process. Lord Haltom in Chief Constable of the North Wales Police v. Evans,    (1982) 3 All ER 141, observed : The    purpose     of judicial review is to ensure that the individual receives fair treatment, and not to ensure that the authority, after according fair treatment, reaches, on a matter which it is authorized by law to decide for itself, a conclusion which is correct in the eyes of the court.

Judicial    Review, not being an appeal from a decision, but a review of the manner in which the decision was arrived at, the Court while exercising the power of Judicial Review must remain conscious of the fact that if the decision     has been arrived at by the Administrative Authority after following the principles established by law and the rules of natural     justice and the individual has received a    fair treatment to meet the case against him, the Court cannot substitute its     judgment for that of     the Administrative Authority on a matter which fell squarely within the sphere of jurisdiction of that authority. It is useful to note the following observations     of this Court in Union of India v. Sardar    Bahadur, (1972) 4 SCC 618 : Where there are some relevant materials which the authority has accepted     and which materials may reasonably support the conclusion    that the officer is guilty, it is not the function of the    High Court exercising its    jurisdiction under Article 226 to review the materials and to arrive at an independent finding on the materials. If the enquiry has been properly held the question of adequacy or reliability of the evidence cannot be canvassed before the High Court.

After a    detailed review of the law on the subject, this Court while dealing with the jurisdiction of the High Court or Tribunal to interfere with the disciplinary matters and punishment in Union of India v. Parma Nanda, (1989) 2 SCC 177, opined : We must unequivocally state that    the jurisdiction of the Tribunal to interfere     with     the disciplinary matters or punishment cannot be equated with an appellate jurisdiction. The Tribunal cannot interfere with the findings of the Enquiry Officer or Competent Authority where they are not arbitrary or utterly perverse. It is appropriate to remember that the power to impose penalty on a delinquent officer is conferred on the competent authority either    by an    Act of Legislature or Rules made under     the proviso     to Article 309 of the Constitution. If there     has been an enquiry consistent with the rules and in accordance with principles of natural justice what punishment would meet the ends of justice is a matter of exclusively within the jurisdiction of the competent authority. If the penalty can lawfully be imposed and is imposed on     the proved misconduct, the Tribunal has no power to substitute its own discretion for that of the authority.

In B.C.    Chaturvedi v. Union of India, (1995 ) 6 SCC 749, this Court opined : The disciplinary authority is the sole judge of     facts.     Where     appeal     is presented,     the appellate authority has coextensive power to    reappreciate them evidence     or the nature of punishment. In a Disciplinary Enquiry, the strict proof of legal evidence and findings on that evidence are not relevant.    Adequacy of evidence or reliability of evidence cannot be permitted to be canvassed before the Court/Tribunal.

Further it was held :

A     review of the above legal position would establish that the disciplinary authority, and on appeal the appellate authority, being fact-finding authorities have exclusive power to consider the evidence with a view    to maintain discipline. They are invested with the discretion to impose appropriate punishment     keeping in view the magnitude or gravity     of the misconduct. The High Court/Tribunal, while exercising the     power of judicial review, cannot normally substitute its     own conclusion on penalty and    impose    some other    penalty. If    the punishment imposed by     the disciplinary authority or the appellate authority shocks the conscience of     the    High    Court/Tribunal, it would appropriately mould the relief, either directing     the disciplinary/appellate    authority to reconsider the penalty imposed, or to shorten the litigation, it may     itself, in exceptional and rare cases, impose appropriate punishment with cogent reasons in support thereof.

( Emphasis supplied)

Again in Government of Tamil Nadu and another v.     A. Rajapandian, 1995(1) SCC 216, this Court opined : It    has been authoritatively settled by string of authorities of this Court that the Administrative Tribunal cannot sit as a court of appeal over a decision based on the findings of the inquiring authority in disciplinary    proceedings. Where there is some     relevant material which the disciplinary authority has    accepted and    which material     reasonably supports the    conclusion reached by the    disciplinary authority, it    is not the function of     the Administrative Tribunal to review the same and reach different finding than that of the disciplinary authority.     The Administrative Tribunal, in this case, has     found    no fault with     the proceedings held by the inquiring authority. It has quashed the dismissal    order by re-appreciating the evidence     and reaching a finding different than that of the inquiring authority. (Emphasis ours) In the established     facts    and circumstances of this case, we have no hesitation to hold, at the     outset, that both the learned Single Judge and     the Division Bench of the High Court fell into patent error in interfering with findings of fact recorded by     the departmental authorities and interfering with the quantum of punishment, as     if the High Court was sitting in appellate jurisdiction.    From the judgments of the learned Single Judge as well as the Division Bench, it is quite obvious that the findings with regard to an unbecoming act committed by the respondent, as found by the    Departmental Authorities, were not found fault with even     on re-appreciation     of evidence.    The High Court did not    find that the occurrence as alleged by the complainant had     not taken place.    Neither     the learned Single Judge nor     the Division Bench found that findings recorded by the Enquiry Officer     or the Departmental Appellate Authority were either arbitrary or even perverse. As a matter of fact, the    High Court found no fault whatsoever with the conduct of Enquiry. The direction of the learned Single Judge to the effect that the respondent was not entitled to back wages and was to be posted    outside     the city for at least two years, which     was upheld    by the Division Bench, itself demonstrates that     the High Court believed the complainants case     fully    for otherwise neither the     withholding of back wages nor a direction to post the respondent outside the city for at least two years was    necessary. The High Court in     our opinion     fell in error in interfering with the     punishment, which    could be lawfully imposed by the    departmental authorities on the respondent for his proven misconduct. To hold that since the respondent had not actually molested Miss X     and that he had only tried to molest her and had not managed to make    physical contact with     her, the punishment of    removal from service was not justified     was erroneous. The High Court should not have substituted     its own discretion for that of the authority. What punishment was required to be imposed, in the facts and circumstances of the case, was a matter which fell exclusively within the jurisdiction of the competent authority and did not warrant any interference by the High Court. The entire approach of the High Court has been faulty. The impugned order of     the High Court cannot be sustained on this ground alone.     But there is another aspect of the case which is fundamental and goes to the root of the case and concerns the approach of the Court while dealing with cases of sexual harassment at the place of work of female employees.     The High Court     was examining disciplinary     proceedings against the respondent and was not dealing with criminal trial of the     respondent. The High Court did not find that there was no evidence at all of any kind of molestation or assault on the person of Miss X. It appears that the High Court re-appreciated the evidence while exercising power of judicial review     and gave meaning to the expression molestation as if it was dealing with a finding in a criminal trial. Miss X had used the expression molestation in her complaint in a general sense and during her evidence she has explained what     she meant.     Assuming for    the sake of    argument that     the respondent did     not manage to establish any physical contact     with Miss X, though the statement of     management witness     Suba Singh shows that the respondent had put     his hand on the hand of Miss X when he surprised them in the Business Centre, it did not mean that the respondent had not made any objectionable overtures with sexual overtones. From the entire tenor of the cross-examination to which Miss X was subjected to by the respondent, running into about 17 typed pages and containing more than one hundred & forty questions and answers in cross-examinations, it appears that the effort of respondent was only to play with the use of the expressions molestation and physical assault by her and confuse her. It was not the dictionary meaning of     the word molestation or physical assault which was relevant. The statement of Miss X before the Enquiry Officer as    well as in her complaint unambiguously conveyed in no uncertain terms as to what her complaint was.    The entire episode reveals     that the respondent had harassed, pestered     and subjected Miss     X, by     a conduct which is against moral sanctions and    which did not withstand the test of decency and modesty and which projected unwelcome sexual advances. Such an action on the part of the respondent would be squarely covered by the term     sexual     harassment. The following statement made by Miss X at the enquiry : When I was there in the Chairmans room I told Mr. Chopra that this was wrong and he should not do such things. He tried to persuade me by talking. ......................... I tried to type the material but there were so many mistakes. He helped me in typing. There he tried to blackmail     me. ................. He tried to sit with me. In between he tried to touch me............................    Mr. Chopra again took me to the Business Centre.    Thereafter again he tried.    I told him I will go out if he does like this.    Then he went out.    Again he came back. In between     he tried. (Emphasis supplied) unmistakably shows that the conduct of the respondent     constituted an act    unbecoming of    good behaviour, expected from the superior officer.     Repeatedly, did Miss X state before the     Enquiry Officer that     the respondent tried to sit close to her and touch her and that she reprimanded him by asking that he should not do these things.     The statement of Miss Rama Kanwar, the management witness     to the effect that when on 16th August she saw Miss X and asked her the reason for being upset, Miss X kept on weeping     and told her she could not tell being     unmarried, she could not explain what had happened to     her.    The material on the record, thus, clearly establishes an unwelcome sexually determined behaviour on the part of     the respondent against Miss X which was also an     attempt to outrage     her modesty.     Any action or gesture, whether directly or by implication, aims at or has the tendency to outrage     the modesty of a female employee, must fall under the general concept of the definition of sexual harassment. The evidence on the record clearly establishes that     the respondent caused sexual harassment    to Miss X, taking advantage of his superior position in the Council. Against the growing social menace of sexual harassment of women at the work place, a three Judge Bench of this    Court by a rather innovative judicial law making process issued certain guidelines in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6     SCC 241, after taking note of the fact that the present civil and penal laws in the country do not adequately provide for specific protection of woman from sexual harassment at places    of work and that enactment of such a     legislation would take a considerable time. In Vishakas case (supra), a definition of sexual harassment was suggested. Verma, J., (as the former Chief Justice then was), speaking for     the three-Judge Bench opined : 2. Definition :     For this purpose, sexual harassment includes such unwelcome sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or by implication) as : (a)     physical contact and advances; (b) a demand or request     for sexual favours; (c) sexually-coloured remarks; (d) showing pornography; (e) any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non- verbal conduct of sexual nature.

Where any of these acts is committed in circumstances whereunder the     victim     of such conduct has a reasonable apprehension that in relation to the victims employment or work whether she is drawing     salary, or honorarium or voluntary, whether in government,    public    or private enterprise such conduct can     be humiliating and     may constitute a     health     and    safety     problem. It     is discriminatory    for instance when the woman has reasonable grounds to believe that her objection would disadvantage her in connection     with her employment     or work including recruiting or promotion or when it creates a hostile    work environment. Adverse consequences might be visited if the victim does not consent to the conduct in question or raises any objection thereto.

An analysis of the above definition, shows that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination projected through unwelcome sexual advances, request for sexual favours     and other verbal or physical conduct with sexual overtones, whether     directly or by implication, particularly    when submission to or rejection of such a conduct by the female employee was capable    of being used     for effecting     the employment of     the female employee     and    unreasonably interfering with her work performance and had the effect of creating an intimidating or hostile working environment for her. There is no gainsaying that each incident of sexual harassment, at     the place of work, results in violation of the Fundamental Right to Gender Equality and the Right to Life and Liberty the two most precious Fundamental Rights guaranteed by    the Constitution of India. As early as in 1993 at the ILO Seminar held at Manila, it was recognized that sexual harassment of woman at the work place was a form of gender discrimination against woman. In our opinion, the contents of the fundamental rights guaranteed in     our Constitution are of sufficient amplitude to encompass     all facets    of gender equality, including prevention of sexual harassment and abuse and the courts are under a constitutional    obligation to    protect and preserve those fundamental rights. That sexual harassment of a female at the place of    work is incompatible with the    dignity     and honour of a female and needs to be eliminated and that there can be     no compromise with such violations, admits of no debate.     The message of international instruments such as the Convention on the Elimination     of All Forms     of Discrimination Against Women, 1979 (CEDAW) and the Beijing Declaration which directs all State parties to    take appropriate measures to prevent discrimination of all forms against women besides taking steps to protect the honour and dignity     of women is loud and     clear.     The International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights contains several     provisions particularly important    for women. Article     7 recognises her right to fair conditions of    work and reflects that women shall not be subjected to sexual harassment at    the place of work which may vitiate working environment.    These international instruments cast an obligation on the Indian State to gender sensitise its laws and the Courts are under an obligation to see that     the message     of the international instruments is not allowed to be drowned. This Court has in numerous cases emphasised that while discussing constitutional requirements, court and counsel must never forget the core principle embodied in the International Conventions and     Instruments and as far as possible give    effect to the principles contained in those international    instruments. The Courts are under     an obligation to give due regard to International     Conventions and Norms for construing domestic laws more so when there is no inconsistency between them and there is     a void in domestic law.    [See with advantage Prem Sankar v. Delhi Administration,     AIR 1980 SC 1535; Mackninnon Mackenzie and Co. v. Audrey D Costa, (1987) 2 SCC 469 JT 1987 (2) SC 34; Sheela Barse v.    Secretary, Childrens Aid Society, (1987)    3 SCC    50 at p.54; Vishaka & others v. State of Rajasthan & Ors., JT 1997 (7) SC 392;     Peoples Union    for Civil Liberties v. Union of India & Anr., JT 1997 (2) SC 311 and D.K. Basu & Anr. v.    State of West Bengal & Anr., (1997) 1 SCC 416 at p.438]. In cases involving violation of human rights, the Courts must for ever remain alive to     the international instruments and conventions and apply the same to a given case when there is no inconsistency between     the international norms and the domestic     law occupying     the field.     In the instant case, the High Court appears to have totally     ignored the intent and content of the International Conventions and Norms while dealing with the     case.     The observations made by the High Court to the effect that since the respondent     did not actually molest Miss X     but only tried to molest her and, therefore,    his removal from service     was not warranted rebel against realism and    lose their sanctity     and credibility. In the instant case,     the behaviour of respondent did not cease to be outrageous     for want of an actual assault or touch by the superior officer. In a case involving charge of sexual harassment or attempt to sexually molest, the courts are required to examine     the broader     probabilities    of a case and not get swayed by insignificant discrepancies or narrow technicalities or dictionary meaning of the expression molestation. They must examine     the entire material     to determine     the genuineness of the complaint.    The statement of the victim must be appreciated in the background of the entire case. Where the evidence of the victim inspires confidence, as is the position in the instant case, the courts are obliged to rely on it. Such cases are required to be dealt with great sensitivity. Sympathy in such cases in favour of     the superior officer is wholly misplaced and mercy has no relevance. The High Court overlooked the ground realities and ignored the fact that the conduct of the respondent against     his junior female employee, Miss X,     was wholly against     moral    sanctions, decency and was offensive to     her modesty. Reduction of punishment in a case like this is bound to have demoralizing effect on the women employees and is a retrograde step.     There was no justification for     the High Court to interfere with the punishment imposed by     the departmental authorities. The act of the respondent     was unbecoming of    good conduct and behaviour expected from a superior officer and undoubtedly amounted     to sexual harassment of    Miss X and the punishment imposed by     the appellant, was, thus, commensurate with the gravity of     his objectionable behaviour and did not warrant any interference by the     High Court in exercise of its     power    of judicial review.     At the conclusion of the hearing, learned counsel for the respondent submitted     that    the respondent     was repentant of his actions and that he tenders an unqualified apology     and that he was willing to also go and to apologize to Miss X. We are afraid, it is too late in the day to show any sympathy to the respondent in such a case.     Any lenient action    in such a case is bound to have demoralizing effect on working women. Sympathy in such cases is uncalled     for and mercy is misplaced. Thus, for what we have said above the impugned order of the High Court is set aside and     the punishment as    imposed by the Disciplinary Authority     and upheld by the Departmental Appellate Authority of removal of the respondent     from service is upheld and restored.    The, appeals, thus succeed and are allowed. We, however, make no order as to costs.