ISLAMABAD, Pakistan: President Dr Arif Alvi has upheld the major penalty of dismissal from service and fine of Rs 1 million imposed by the Federal Ombudsman for Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace (FOSPAH) upon the General Manager (GM) of Pakistan Television (PTV) Khalid Mehmood Lakhan after he was proved to be guilty of the charge of sexual harassment of a Makeup Artist of PTV Center Multan under Section 4 of the Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2010.
The president rejected the representation filed by the GM PTV against the decision of FOSPAH, stating that both our religion and the law strongly discouraged such acts and it was important to send a message to society, women workforce, anti-social and potential harassers through such decisions in sexual harassment cases that Pakistan would not tolerate such behaviour.
The president gave these remarks while rejecting a representation filed by the GM PTV Khalid Mehmood Lakhan (the accused) against the decision of FOSPAH imposing the major penalty of dismissal from service and a fine of Rs 1 million upon him to compensate the Makeup Artist (the complainant) for causing her anguish and mental torture.
The FOSPAH had also directed the MD PTV to impose the penalties upon the accused within one week and submit a compliance report to FOSPAH.
In his decision, the president observed that the proceedings of the case were repeatedly adjourned, adding that the accused misused the liberty and grace shown by FOSPAH by availing repeated adjournments on one pretext or the other. He further stated that the accused adopted dilatory tactics which amounted to an insult to the FOSPAH Act, 2010 which was aimed at expeditious disposal of such cases.
President Arif Alvi highlighted that although the right to a fair trial was a well-recognized principle of justice, abuse of the process of law was also not allowed. He said that the Ombudsman was left with no option but to decide the complaint on the basis of the available record and striking off the right of defence of the accused as it was the accused himself who had been dragging the proceedings as is reflected in the record.
The president stated that since the accused declined to avail the opportunity, it must follow that he believed in the testimony produced by the opposite party.
“This is not a technical rule of evidence rather a rule of substantial justice”, he added.
“In Pakistan, it is important that we make public and job places secure for women enabling them to become equal citizens, move about freely, get an education and earn a living”, the president remarked.
Dr. Arif Alvi said that the accused cannot claim such a liberty to proceed with the inquiry proceedings at his leisure and pleasure and has no right to avail himself unlimited opportunities for cross-examination of the complainant.
The president said that the Supreme Court of Pakistan, in another case, had also rightly observed that frequent adjournments were sought by the litigants but this tendency needed to be discouraged for expeditious disposal of cases as it was merely meant to prolong and delay the proceedings without any valid or legitimate rhyme or reason.
The president held that FOSPAH had rightly passed the order and no interference was warranted as it was based on law and facts, therefore, the representation of GM PTV was rejected.