President directs ombudsperson to decide harassment case afresh – 10 Apr 2023

ISLAMABAD: President Dr Arif Alvi on Sunday directed the Federal Ombudsman for Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace to decide the matter of alleged sexual harassment at the Air University Islamabad afresh by affording an opportunity of hearing to both the parties.

He stated the ombudsman had previously not given an opportunity to the parties, including the opportunity to produce evidence, and had rejected the complaint of the woman in a slipshod manner.

The president gave these remarks while deciding on a case where a woman employee of the Air University Islamabad had filed a complaint with the Federal Ombudsman Secretariat for Protection against Harassment (FOSPAH). She had stated that she faced workplace harassment at the hands of a senior university official in 2019 when she reported a serious matter of `MBBS students using drugs on college premises and their involvement in immoral activities.

FOSPAH had rejected her complaint by stating that the complainant had failed to prove her case beyond reasonable doubt and that the complainant had leveled allegations of general nature. Feeling aggrieved, the complainant filed a representation with the president.

While accepting the representation, the president stated that the allegations narrated by the complainant against the accused were of serious nature, which needed an appropriate probe and evidence to reach the right conclusion. He noted that the ombudsman, instead of following the procedure, had drawn the conclusion on the basis of contents of the complaint by observing: `The complainant has levelled allegations of general nature against the administration, and that a representative of the organisation appeared and told that none of the complaints had been ever filed and he belied the stance of the complainant.

The president observed that the ombudsman had placed reliance solely on the contents of the complaint and the statement of the representative of the organisation and as a sequel rejected the complaint.

He added that no opportunity of producing evidence or cross examining the representative had been afforded to the complainant despite the fact that in the preliminary order the ombudsman had observed that the allegations were of grave nature which required evidence but subsequently no evidence was recorded and the complaint was rejected in a slipshod manner.

The president concluded that in view of the gravity of the allegations, full opportunity of hearing to the parties should have been afforded, including an opportunity to produce evidence.

He said the denial to afford the opportunity of producing evidence was violation of Article 10-A as enshrined in the Constitution, the provisions of the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010 and the principles of natural justice.

The president, therefore, set aside the order of FOSPAH and remitted the matter to the ombudsman to decide it afresh by affording opportunity of hearing to the parties.

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