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Delhi High Court Orders Fresh Probe Into Sexual Harassment Allegations Against Air France Employee

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The Delhi Court on May 30 directed Air France to conduct a fresh inquiry into an Indian employee’s allegations of repeated sexual harassment against a French senior executive at the airline, the Hindustan Times reported.

Saying that the Vishaka Guidelines should be taken seriously, a bench comprising Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice AK Chawla observed that the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) set up by Air France over the complaints made by the woman working at its Gurugram office, and the panel’s resultant proceedings, were invalid.

The court set them aside, saying: “Consequently, the constitution of ICC by Air France and all its resultant proceedings, including the report submitted by it, are…set aside. It is hereby directed that ICC should be reconstituted in strict compliance with the requirements under law within 30 days and the committee should conduct its inquiry afresh.”

The woman also claimed that ICC was only set up once the police had lodged an FIR.

The court’s directive came after the woman appealed to say that Stanilas Brun, who worked as the marketing manager, cargo for India, Nepal and Bhutan in 2013, had been sexually harassing her. Brun’s LinkedIn profile now says that he is the managing director, Middle East, Gulf & Indian Subcontinent, Air France-KLM Cargo and Martinair Cargo.

The complainant said that she had been victimized for complaining against the senior executive and accusing him of sexual harassment. She claimed that she was forced to resign by three persons in the company on Sept. 23, 2017.

She also alleged that she was threatened with immediate termination of employment without any letter or documentation of her service and provident fund from the company.

The court emphasized that the Vishaka Guidelines are to be taken seriously. “The march of our society to… sensitivity to the issue of sexual harassment and its baneful effects, flagged in Vishaka (supra), culminated in the path-breaking Workplace Harassment Prohibition Act over 17 years later,” the bench said, according to the report.

The court also observed that decision makers, parliament, courts and employers should be vigilant in making sure that effective policies are swiftly and impartially enforced to ensure justice and to check that no one is subjected to unwelcome and unacceptable behavior at the workplace.

Put in effect by the Indian Supreme Court in 1997, the Vishakha Guidelines are a set of procedural guidelines for use in India for cases of sexual harassment. The guidelines were superseded in 2013 by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.