Monday, August 23, 2010

Men are as vulnerable to sexual harassment as Women at Workplace : Every fifth worker sexually harassed

Men are as vulnerable to sexual harassment as Women at workplace issues: Every fifth worker sexually harassed

NEW DELHI: Oracle CEO Larry Ellison’s sensational and irate emailed criticism of the Hewlett-Packard board for firing its CEO Mark V Hurd over an alleged sexual harassment charge earlier this month uncovered the basic paradox that has bedevilled a solution to a modern day malaise in the workplace.

“The HP board just made the worst personnel decision since the idiots on the Apple board fired Steve Jobs many years ago.” Mr Ellison thundered, adding, “In losing Mark Hurd, the HP board failed to act in the best interest of HP’s employees, shareholders, customers and partners...”

In recent times, high profile exits of top executives on charges of sexual misconduct have been cropping up at regular intervals. For every name that hits the headlines, murky questions swirl around others that do not. But since almost all cases are settled out of court, including the two most well-documented cases involving Indians, Infosys’ then US head Phaneesh Murthy in 2002 and Penguin Canada’s David Davidar in 2010, consequent gag orders prevent any further probes about either the veracity and extent of the charges or the considerations that led to their ouster.

The fact is, however, that as more and more Indians come into the workplace, sexual harassment in that sphere has become a malaise that cannot be denied or wished away. Part of the problem stems from the forced cosmopolitanism of offices and shopfloors, as people from varied social milieus are thrown together.

Popular culture and mass media add their bit by propagating new ‘accepted’ modes of conduct that sit uneasily with basic, traditional personal codes. The pressure to conform leads to unwelcome behaviour and body language that often gets lost in translation. Result: Complaints of transgressions, real and imagined.

The results of the ET-Synovate survey appear to bolster that argument as Bangalore, the melting pot of the IT industry, has emerged as the place with the maximum number of people (50%) who said that they have been sexually harassed at their workplace, whereas Chennai with a far less-diverse workforce appears to be the least troubled. Of the 527 executives polled, one in every five said they had been sexually harassed at their workplace.

The startling statistic that 38% of the respondents (more than half of them from Hyderabad and Mumbai) believe men are as vulnerable to sexual harassment as women, shows that improper behaviour, and rules to curb it, can cut both ways.

At the other end of the spectrum, companies have to walk a razor’s edge between providing a tension-free atmosphere conducive to productive work and dealing with the consequences of the use and abuse of Supreme Court dictated tenets that, in theory, now guide office behaviour till a law is passed by Parliament. Ellison’s gripe is a very real dilemma that companies face at the top end: If a CEO is good for the balancesheet, should all other infractions be condoned? Result: An unhappy trade-off between bottomline losses and pay-out for damages in an imminent sexual harassment case.

Leave your parents else i file dowry harassment case - Sathish claims harassment as motive for murdering wife

Leave your parents else i file dowry harassment case - Sathish claims harassment as motive for murdering wife

BANGALORE: At the last point of investigation, Sathish Kumar Gupta claimed that harassment drove him to murder his wife Priyanka Gupta.

"First, we took him into confidence, giving him hope that we would help him out. Till then, he tried denying the charges against him. Once he gained confidence, he opened up. He seems to have his own story to tell, which resulted in him ruining his own life,'' said investigation officer inspector Balarame Gowda.

Sathish told police that his wife forbade him from having any contact with his parents. He said his parents struggled hard to educate him.

Unable to bear the harassment, Sathish proposed to divorce her. But Priyanka refused, saying she would file a dowry harassment case. The last straw was when Priyanka created a scene at a family function, Satish claimed.

"But he was not a professional killer and made his plans after seeing one or two detective serials and reading stories. He went on creating evidences to prove that he was not at the spot, which started giving rise to a lot of questions. We could make out that some one had deliberately tried creating a scene, after committing murder,'' Balarame Gowda added.

How HC FIRed away at courts, erring police officers

How HC FIRed away at courts, erring police officers

Aug 23 2010

This month, High Court issued a series of verdicts aimed at rectifying the judicial and police systems

Now that the Delhi High Court has entered the scene, lodging an FIR may become much easier for the common man. No longer will he have to run helter-skelter for getting the police to act on his complaint, or search for the right connections in the Capital’s officialdom to get the work done.

Striking a balance between its verdicts, the High Court also maintained that people caught in the wrong end of an FIR should not be subjected to undue harassment.

The court, in a string of rulings delivered in August, handed out a list of do’s and don’ts to the city police and lower courts, which reportedly resort to a “hyper-technical” approach while handling complaints.

Verbal complaint

The first landmark judgment in the series of recent verdicts came when Justice S N Dhingra held that a person need not essentially file a written complaint to get heard by a magistrate for registering an FIR. So, when a victim appears before a trial court and raises a complaint on the commission of an offence, the judge cannot dismiss his plea by saying he must first submit his complaint in writing and then produce the evidence and record his testimony. The High Court order obligates a magistrate to record the victim’s statement and order the police to probe into the matter after lodging an FIR, if the statement recounts a serious offence.

Men's forum demands national commission for them

Men's forum demands national commission for them

R. Ilangovan

‘Many women are abusing laws for nefarious gains'


posterProtect us:A poster on Section 498A of IPC that was displayed at the national

conference of All India Men's Welfare Association at Yercaud.

SALEM: A national-level coordination forum of men has called for protection from wives and live-in partners whom they charged with exploiting women's welfare legislation that arm them with ‘unbridled' power to act against men.

The men, who claim to be ‘victims' of such legislation from all over the country, spent three days in a resort at the hill station of Yercaud near here to deliberate on how to protect themselves and their kith and kin from harassment and to kick-start a campaign to impress upon policy-makers to think about their plight before enacting such lop-sided laws.

The forum said that many women were abusing these laws for nefarious gains by filing charges against their husbands and partners.

The provisions in these statutes, they called, were ‘anti-men' leading to suicide of nearly 60,000 men as against 32,000 women annually.

Between 2004 and 2008, seven lakh men and family members were arrested including 500 minors and 5000 aged people, they claimed.

They pointed out that, for instance, laws such as the Dowry Prohibition Act, Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, Sec 125 of Cr. PC and above all Section 498A of Indian Penal Code were too stringent and non-bailable.

Women's lobbies

“Though a debate is going on in legal circles on whether to amend or not especially Sec 498A to prevent its abuse, a few powerful women's lobbies are blocking it,” said Suresh Ram, National Collegium member, All India Men's Welfare Association, which organised the 3 {+r} {+d} Men's Rights Conference of the Delhi-based Save Indian Family Foundation at Yercaud in Salem district.

Delegates from Maharashtra, Assam, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh and from the U.S. attended the deliberations.

A majority of them were from Karnataka, mainly young Information Technology professionals. They said that they would urge the government to replace the words ‘Husband and Wife' with ‘Person' in the said acts. They said that cases before Family Courts should be expedited and settled within two years.

The government would be approached to form National Commission for Men, they add.

Criminal justice system is crumbling: SC

Criminal justice system is crumbling: SC

NEW DELHI: A startling revelation that hundreds of criminal trials in murder, rape, dacoity and kidnapping cases were pending for more than 20 years made the Supreme Court on Tuesday say in exasperation -- "the criminal justice system is either crumbling or has crumbled".

What added to the anguish of a Bench comprising Justices G S Singhvi and A K Ganguly was the fact that High Courts had stayed trials and, later, forgot all about the cases.

Taking Uttar Pradesh as a test case, solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam reeled out rather sad statistics reflecting poorly on the Allahabad High Court, which is administratively in charge of the subordinate judiciary.

Subramaniam said 10,541 criminal trials were stayed by Allahabad HC. Of these, 9% were pending for more than 20 years and 21% for over a decade. This means, stay of trial in 30% of heinous offences continued for more than 10 years.

The apex court has repeatedly ruled about the fundamental right of an accused to speedy trial and balanced it with judgments which coaxed trial courts to hear the loud cry of society to bring offenders to book.

In this backdrop, the Bench observed, "It's sad that administration of justice has come to such a pass. The HCs stay the trial and forget all about it. This means, we are choking the administration of justice. No one should be denied a fair and speedy trial. But what about the victims? What about society which feels that a wrongdoer should be punished at the earliest. Through these stays, that is being denied."

When the SG said that chief justices of HCs should play an active role in clearing the mess arising out decade-old stay orders on criminal trials, the Bench said, "The CJs are helpless. They have a tenure ranging from one year to even two months. What can a CJ do in such a brief tenure? They cannot deal with this problem as their brief tenures do not allow them to even understand the dynamics of a particular HC."

Taking a dig at the government and law officers, the Bench said, "Six months back, you (SG) and your colleagues had pioneered a programme for expeditious justice in the face of crores of cases pending in trial courts. But the entire system seems to have either crumbled or is crumbling. What we are witnessing through this case is that criminal justice system does not exist. What else can be said when 9% of cases have been stayed for more than 20 years. There has to be a debate and concrete solution."

The SG agreed and said there had been unexpected hindrances from hidden quarters that was slowing the programme. "The opaqueness and the power enjoyed by hidden actors is hindering it and we will not succeed unless we have loads of optimism. But we cannot just throw in the towel. Please use this case as a starting point for bringing about immediate reparatory measures. It has to be a joint operation by government and judiciary," he said.

The Bench also said there were thousands of cases filed in HCs which were never called for hearing. It asked the Allahabad HC to furnish details of such cases for passing of appropriate orders. The proceedings took place in a petition filed by Imtiaz Ahmed.

SC observed criminal justice system is either crumbling or has crumbled - Legal reforms are a priority- ek juun vi nahi hilli

SC observed criminal justice system is either crumbling or has crumbled - Legal reforms are a priority- ek juun vi nahi hilli


Legal reforms are a priority

Joginder Singh

Minor amendments to existing laws can radically transform our justice delivery system. The Government must act without delay

The Government spends crores of rupees in setting up committees and commissions to discover what is wrong with its own functioning and how it can become more people-friendly. However, there are a few things that it can do and there are some things all of us can and should do as citizens. Obeying the law, for example, is a duty and not a favour done. The truth remains that the Government knows very well what is wrong. It sets up its commissions and committees only as a cover for inaction and to avoid accountability.

The public is no longer shocked by traffic accidents — whether it involves the death of one or that of a dozen people and whether it is caused by recklessly driven Blueline buses or by expensive cars with spoilt children of the rich and influential at the wheel. A teenager driving a fast car ran over a young engineering student and his five-year-old cousin riding a motorcycle in Chandigarh.

An eyewitness said that the teenager was drunk at the time of the accident but after she surrendered the next day, she was not charged with drunken driving. After her surrender, she was promptly given bail. Incidentally, she is a student in the US where punishment for such an offence is much more serious and entails permanent dispossession of driving licence.
But cancelling a driving licence in our country is a tortuous process. It is rarely done and in case it is there are plenty of ways to get hold of a new one — either genuine or fake. This is because the Government does not have a national register of driving licences as in the case of all-India arms licences or a national register of citizens.

The maximum punishment for this crime under the law is two years imprisonment if found guilty. Data collated for 2007 show that India registered 4,18,657 road accidents with 1,14,590 fatalities which comes to 314 casualties per day, 13 deaths per hour and a death every five minutes. We are still following the laws given to us by the British in 1863. According to these, there is a fine distinction between an act of culpable homicide not amounting to murder and a murder committed with a motive or malice. But a killing is still a killing whether it is caused by a truck or a car or any other vehicle.

In the national capital in 2007, there were 851 fatal incidents in which a total of 2,141 people died and 7,695 were injured. There were only 211 murder cases in the city in the same period. Statistics showing deaths on the road numbering over one lakh still did not awaken the somnolent Government to the gravity of the issue.

Those accused in the Satyam scam (put variously at `24,000 crore to `35,000 crore) were given bail on health ground. The Satyam case is nothing but a mockery of justice. The CBI has traced more than 400 fictitious companies floated by the main accused B Ramalinga Raju and his associates for the purpose of diverting the alleged proceeds of the crime. Nearly 2,000 acres of land, acquired by Raju and his family with the proceeds of the fraud, has been identified by the CBI.

Incidentally, Raju had confessed to fraud worth `7,000 crore on January 7, 2009. The point here is that once the accused has confessed his crime, do we need to go on with the hearings producing witness after witness in court and prolonging the trial for years on end? A simple amendment to the law to the effect that after an accused has voluntarily confessed to a crime the court shall proceed to dispose of the case on the basis of his confession can solve the problem. The heavens will not fall and no right of the accused guaranteed under the Constitution will be adversely affected because to be admissible in a court of law, such a confession must be recorded before a judicial magistrate. Indeed, it will send the right message — that the accused has been punished on the basis of his own confession.

The same is the case involving the surviving terrorist in the 26/11 Mumbai attacks in which, even after two years, the accused is yet to get his just desserts. With such an approach, are we not giving ordinary citizens the impression that the law is keener to provide escape routes to criminals instead of punishing them as they deserve?

On August 17, the Supreme Court observed that “the criminal justice system is either crumbling or has crumbled” after taking note that the High Courts had stayed trials and later forgotten about the cases. According to the information furnished to the Supreme Court, 10,541 criminal trials were stayed by Allahabad High Court. Of these, nine per cent had been pending for more than 20 years and 21 per cent for over a decade. This means stay of trial in 30 per cent of heinous offences continued for more than 10 years.

The judiciary is proclaimed by the high and mighty as one of the pillars of good governance and democracy but successive Governments have starved it of the funds and wherewithal to improve the justice delivery system.

It is a fact that the Government had meted out stepmotherly treatment to the judiciary leading to a huge pendency of cases in subordinate courts. The Chief Justice of India observed on August 18, “The time has come for the judiciary to raise its own resources to meet expenses on account of judicial infrastructure, which is lacking in several States.” The court has decided to set up a special purpose vehicle under which money, as and when raised, would be earmarked for “judicial infrastructure”.

In 2004, the Prime Minister, while addressing a conference of Chief Ministers and Chief Justices, had said that Government litigation including appeals which mostly fail accounts for 70 per cent of the cases and it is these cases that get a hearing at the cost of citizens’ cases. He had also observed that such appeals should not have been filed in the first instance.

But as the Punjabi saying goes, ek juun vi nahi hilli, and no steps have been taken to rectify the situation. One does not need great intelligence to take corrective measures if one wishes to take them in the first place. If the Government sticks to the stance of masterly inactivity and waits to do anything until it is satisfied that the time is absolutely right, it will be unable to change the present state of affairs. Our Prime Minister is considered the best leader in the world and he should have a solution.