The statements of the Doctors Association of Kashmir and the Doctors Association Jammu ahead of an inquiry of sexual harassment have triggered a controversy as the complainant and her lawyers have said those are in violation of the law. Senior advocate Altaf Khan said the statements of the associations are in violation of the Supreme Court guidelines as they don’t have any legal right to issue statements.
A female consultant filed a complaint on April 28 this year to chief secretary BVR Subramanayam that against director, health, Kashmir, Samir Mattoo alleging that he made sexual innuendos over the telephone on December 13, 2019. There was no response from the chief secretary’s office.
However, soon after new Lieutenant Governor Manoj Joshi took over, the lady doctor approached him with a complaint that Mattoo was harassing her. Sinha’s office took cognizance of the complaint and on October 20, asked financial commissioner, health and medical education, Atal Dulloo, to launch an inquiry within seven days.
“An inquiry be conducted in a time-bound manner to ascertain the veracity of the allegations leveled in the complaint and report within seven days,” read the order issued by Nitishwar Kumar, principal secretary to Sinha.
The government on October 23 issued an order under Section 4 (1) of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) Act, 2013, to probe the case. The government formed a committee comprising director general health services, Satvir Kour Sudan, principal Government Medical College Srinagar, Dr Saima Rashid, director, health services, Jammu, Dr Renu Sharma. Following the order of inquiry, the Doctors Association Kashmir and Doctors Association Jammu issued statements describing Mattoo an upright director.
The complainant in the case says that campaign had been launched to malign her by these associations and others. “I am being shamed despite being a victim of sexual harassment,” she said. She said even health officials, including the head of the grievance cell in the health department, wrote multiple posts on social media shaming her. The Doctors Association Jammu had issued a statement refuting the charges of the lady doctor, calling them “baseless, frivolous and false allegations being leveled against Director Health Service Kashmir.”
The DAJ said the director has proved his competence and integrity as Director Health Service at Jammu and now Kashmir. “The association vociferously supports the incumbent director to keep on working with the same zeal and zest with which he has been working for the last few years. As head of any institution or organization one has to be a tough task master and many people who don’t fall in that line are not happy and retort to such baseless allegations as in this case.”
A senior official of the DAK said the lady doctor concerned didn’t approach the DAK at any point of time. “There are many other associations of doctors and she hasn’t approached any of the associations that she had been harassed,” he said. “We issued a statement as there was consensus that we didn’t receive any complaint against the director from any other doctor including the present complainant,” he said.
“Present director is the director for the third term and there is not a single complaint against him. He has an impeccable record,” he added. He said their statements were in line with law as they didn’t object to inquiry but pointed toward the director's record.
Senior advocate Altaf Khan told Outlook that DAK and others have no personal knowledge about the occurrence. “They are not witnesses. They have no legal right to issue statements. In fact, their statements amount to interference with the inquiry,” he added.
Khan took to social media to voice his concern. He said in this case, a lady doctor has leveled serious allegations against the director health services Kashmir. “The government has ordered a probe and the inquiry team is yet to start functioning. However, some individuals/groups have already delivered the judgment and returned findings, which is against the Supreme Court guidelines,” he said. “It is said once again victims are being targeted and punished for raising her voice against the powerful. Once again a woman is blamed for being a woman, once again the entire system is geared up against a single lady who refused to succumb,” he added.
The criminal proceedings of Vishaka guidelines read: “Employer should ensure that victims or witnesses are not victimized or discriminated against while dealing with complaints of sexual harassment. The victims of sexual harassment should have the option to seek the transfer of the perpetrator or their own transfer.”