Sexual harassment has potential to cause mental trauma, dictate child’s thought process for years: HC

The court said a minor’s mental psyche is vulnerable, impressionable and in a developing stage and sexual harassment has the potential to cause mental trauma which may dictate the child’s thought process for years to come

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Well-being of school-going children in sexual harassment cases is of paramount consideration as the long-term effects of such incidents are insurmountable, the Delhi High Court has said while upholding the penalty of compulsory retirement of a physics teacher who sexually harassed a class 9 student.

The court said a minor’s mental psyche is vulnerable, impressionable and in a developing stage and sexual harassment has the potential to cause mental trauma which may dictate the child’s thought process for years to come.

A bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad said the act can have the effect of hindering normal social growth of the child and lead to various psycho-social problems which could require psychological intervention.

The court’s order came on an appeal by the teacher against an order of the single judge upholding the order of the Delhi School Tribunal and the order of the disciplinary authority which imposed the penalty of compulsory retirement.

The appellant, who was a physics teacher in a private school, was accused of sexual harassment and molestation of a minor girl.

“The facts of the case reveal that the complainant, who is a student of IXth standard, has been subjected to sexual harassment. While dealing with matters relating to harassment of school-going children, paramount consideration is to be given to the well-being of the child whose mental psyche is vulnerable, impressionable and in a developing stage,” said the court in its order dated December 19.

“The long-term effects of childhood sexual harassment are, at many times, insurmountable. An act of sexual harassment, therefore, has the potential to cause mental trauma to the child and may dictate their thought process for years to come. It can have the effect of hindering normal social growth of the child and lead to various psycho-social problems which could require psychological intervention,” stated the court which dismissed the appeal of the appellant teacher.

The appellant argued that the single judge failed to appreciate that the inquiry against him was conducted in violation of the principles of natural justice and the composition of the inquiry committee was not as per the law.

The court, however, refused to interfere with the penalty imposed on the appellant, opining that principles of natural justice and fair play were not violated and the statutory provisions were “strictly been adhered to in the disciplinary proceedings”.

The court said the “findings of single judge cannot be found fault with” and “the instant case is not a case wherein this court can interfere with the departmental inquiry proceedings”.

“Nothing cogent has been brought on record by the appellant to substantiate that the finding of the inquiry officer, as upheld by the disciplinary authority, the tribunal and the learned single judge of this court, is perverse which would warrant interference from this court,” the court said.

“This court does not find any reason to interfere with the orders passed by the disciplinary authority, the tribunal and the learned single judge. Accordingly, the appeal is dismissed, along with pending application(s), if any,” ordered the court.

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