Malathy SB and Ors v. State of Karnataka and Ors WP 11745 of 2023 Kar HC

This month’s entry concerns a case which arose through an unfortunate series of incidents, but which signposts to important future developments in sexual orientation and gender identity laws in the country. In this matter, an employee of a Bangalore based company alleged harassment regarding his sexual orientation and caste identity. The case presents a complex factual situation in which the employee felt increasingly undervalued in the organization; his work received neither recognition nor feedback, his superiors did not speak to him professionally, and jokes and innuendos about his sexual orientation peppered the sarcastic remarks made to him by his colleagues. When he complained to his superiors, things got worse and his colleagues taunted him calling him a snitch (Arrey sir aapse kaun kya bolega, kise apni Naukri nahi pyari hai !’/’ Arrey sir lijiye kursi lijiye warna meri naukri chali jayegi). The employee finally committed suicide but before taking his life, he filed a sexual harassment complaint with his company and a case under the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989. Upon his death, his father filed an abetment to suicide case against his alleged harassers, viz., colleagues and superiors from the company. The present case asked whether the abetment case could be quashed. The consideration of the question raised an important question of law and fact. I shall take each in turn.

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