President Dr. Arif Alvi has imposed a fine upon the accused in a harassment case for filing representations in a hasty manner. The accused has also been fined for putting the alleged victim under further mental and financial hardships by making her travel from Karachi to Islamabad with her counsel to attend the hearing. The President gave this order in a case of sexual harassment, where a female Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) at the Airport Security Force (ASF) posted in Sukkur was allegedly harassed by the airport manager.
The complainant claimed that the accused pressurized her to marry him, and within four months of their marriage, the accused started maltreating her, ultimately handing her a divorce deed in February 2022. She alleged that the accused pressurized her to reside with him after the divorce, and threatened to destroy her job as he was the airport manager. The accused was also reported to have sent indecent WhatsApp messages to the complainant.
Feeling aggrieved, the complainant approached the Federal Ombudsman for Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace (FOSPAH). During the proceedings before the Ombudsman, the accused filed an application for the dismissal of the complaint, arguing that it was not maintainable as the allegations were vague and pertained to domestic issues of the parties.
The counsel of the accused contended that the competent forum for such issues had been specified in the Domestic Violence (Prevention and Protection) Act, 2013 promulgated by the Provincial Assembly of Sindh. However, FOSPAH rejected his application for dismissal of the complaint after hearing both parties.
The accused then filed a representation with the president, which was also rejected. President Alvi stated that the proceedings in the main case were still pending before FOSPAH, where the evidence was yet to be recorded to ascertain the factum of harassment or otherwise. He held that the accused had filed the representation unnecessarily to prolong the proceedings and that such a tendency needed to be discouraged, as it was nothing but a time-buying tactic.
President Alvi said that the preamble of the Protection against the Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, 2010 explicitly provided that the main objective of the legislation was to provide speedy and expeditious relief by redressing the grievances of the litigants to promote good governance. He added that imposing an exemplary cost on the party filing representations on flimsy grounds was appropriate to curb inordinate delay in the disposal of harassment matters.
He further said that Section 14 of the Reforms Act, 2013 empowered the president to dispose of a representation by passing an order as he deemed fit, and such power entailed that such power was to be exercised reasonably, fairly, justly, and for the advancement of the purposes of the enactment.
The President stated that the application filed by the accused for rejection of the complaint on the grounds, which could not be adjudicated except by the appraisal of evidence, was nothing but an abuse of the process of law not only to defeat the main objective of the Act but also to put the complainant under further mental and financial hardships. The complainant had to travel to Islamabad from Karachi with her counsel to attend the hearing of the representation, incurring airfare cost.
Therefore, President Alvi rejected the representation of the accused and imposed the cost of air travel expenses of the complainant upon the accused. He further directed the ombudsman to conclude the proceedings expeditiously within a period of ninety days as contemplated in section 8 of its Act, besides ensuring the payment of airfare cost by the accused to the complainant before proceeding ahead.
In conclusion, this order by the President sets an example for how legal matters regarding harassment should be dealt with expeditiously, and that attempts to