Law & Judiciary

    Sexual harassment case: Raj Bhavan employee moves SC challenging immunity to WB Governor

    The Hawk
    July4/ 2024
    Last Updated:

    A woman staff member of West Bengal Raj Bhawan has taken her sexual harassment complaint against Governor CV Ananda Bose to the Supreme Court, questioning the immunity granted under Article 361 of the Constitution.

    The Supreme Court

    New Delhi: The woman staff member of the West Bengal Raj Bhawan, who had alleged sexual harassment by Governor CV Ananda Bose, has approached the Supreme Court challenging the immunity granted to the Governor under Article 361 of the Constitution.
    She has asked the apex court to decide "whether sexual harassment and molestation form part of discharging or performing duties by the Governor", to grant him a blanket immunity under Article 361 of the Constitution.
    According to Article 361(2) of the Constitution, no criminal proceedings can be instituted or continued against the President or Governor of a State in any court during their term of office.
    "This court has to decide whether a victim like the Petitioner can be rendered remediless, with the only option being to wait for the accused to demit his office, which delay will then be inexplicable during the trial, and render the entire procedure a mere lip service, without any justice to the victim herein," the plea stated.
    She claimed such immunity cannot be absolute and asked the top court to frame guidelines and qualifications to the extent of immunity enjoyed by the office of the Governor.
    "The petitioner is aggrieved by the sexual advances/harassment made by the constitutional authority - the Governor, State of West Bengal in the premises of Raj Bhavan itself. However, due to the blanket immunity bestowed under Article 361 of the Constitution, the petitioner is left remediless despite the offence against her person, and therefore is constrained to approach this apex court directly," the petition stated.
    The plea argued that the immunity provided by Article 361 should not be absolute, particularly in cases involving illegal acts or violations of fundamental rights.
    It stated that the immunity cannot impair the police's powers to investigate the offence or even name the perpetrator in the complaint/FIR, despite specific averments to that effect.
    "Such powers cannot be understood to be absolute so as to enable the Governor to do acts which are illegal or which strike at the root of Part III of the Constitution. Moreover, the said immunity cannot impair the police's powers to investigate the offence or even name the perpetrator in the complaint/FIR, despite specific averments to that effect," it added.
    She has also sought a thorough investigation into the case by West Bengal Police and protection and security for her and her family by West Bengal Police. The woman further sought compensation for the loss of reputation and dignity suffered by her and her family due to the failure of the State machinery to protect her identity.
    According to her complaint, the Governor had called her on April 24 and May 2 on the false pretext of offering a better job only to sexually harass her within the premises of Raj Bhavan during working hours.
    Though an FIR was registered against the officer on special duty (OSD) and other Raj Bhavan staff, the Calcutta High Court had in May stayed the proceedings.
    The FIR accused the OSD and other staff of restraining and pressurizing the woman from lodging the alleged sexual harassment complaint against the Governor.