Sexual harassment has a "variety of fine connotations" and depends upon the "sensitivity and perception" of the harassed person, the Supreme Court on Thursday said.
In a word of caution on the veracity of complaint of the woman judge, recorded in the verdict, an apex court bench headed by Justice J S Kehar, said "the issue of sexual harassment has a variety of fine connotations. Its evaluation may sometimes depend upon the sensitivity of the person concerned.
"And also whether the perception of the harassed individual was known to the one against whom the accusing finger is pointed."
To drive home the point, the bench referred to verbal exchanges between a senior woman lawyer, representing the alleged victim, and the male senior advocate who appeared on behalf of Registrar of the MP High Court.
The male lawyer had termed the frequent interjections of the lady advocate as "delightful", which did not go down well with her and she objected saying it was "sexually coloured".
"Having given our thoughtful consideration to the response of the counsel for the petitioner, we may only say, that she may well be right. There is a lot to be learnt from what she innocuously conveyed. Her sensitivity to the issue, one may confess, brought out to us a wholly different understanding on the subject.
"It is, therefore, that we have remarked above, that the evaluation of a charge of sexual harassment would depend on the manner in which it is perceived. Each case will have to be decided on its own merits...," the bench said.
"Whether the perception of the harassed individual was conveyed to the person accused would be very material in a case falling in the realm of over-sensitivity. In that, it would not be open to him thereafter to defend himself by projecting that he had not sexually harassed the person concerned because in his understanding the alleged action was unoffending," it said.
It said that as a matter of caution, the facts of the plea are for the "limited purpose of the submissions advanced" by lawyers on the procedure followed in the present controversy by the Chief Justice of the High Court.