Misconduct Proceedings against CA for Sexual Harrassment is valid : HC
Lalit Agrawal Vs ICAI & ANR (Delhi High Court)
Hon;ble Court is unable to accept the contention that the Board of Discipline does not have the jurisdiction to examine the alleged misconduct which includes Sexual Harrassment on the part of the petitioner. Clause (2) of Part-IV of the First Schedule to the Act is wide, and would include within its scope, any conduct that would tend to bring disrepute to the profession or the Institute. If a Chartered Accountant is found to have been guilty in outraging the modesty of a woman and/or other offences involving moral turpitude, it would not be inapposite for the Board of Discipline to also conclude that the conduct did, in fact, lower the dignity of the profession. In this view, this Court is not able to accept that the proceedings before the Board of Discipline are without jurisdiction.
It was also contended on behalf of the petitioner that the Board of Discipline could not return any finding as to whether the petitioner was guilty of any of the offences alleged in the FIR, as the said matters were pending trial before the concerned Court. In this regard, it is relevant to mention that the standards of proof as required in Disciplinary Proceedings and Criminal proceedings are different. Whereas, the standard of proof as required in the criminal proceedings is beyond reasonable doubt, the standard of proof as required in Disciplinary proceedings is preponderance of probability. Whilst, it is correct that the Board of Discipline has no jurisdiction to sentence the petitioner, it would be erroneous to contend that the Board of Discipline does not have the jurisdiction, to examine the allegations made against the petitioner, in the context of determining whether the petitioner is guilty of other misconduct as defined under Part-IV of the Schedule-I to the Act. Having stated the above, there may be cases where it may be apposite to await the decision in a trial, and the Board of Discipline has the power to defer the consideration of the complaint in such cases. However, that is a matter of exercising discretion and cannot be considered as denuding the Board of its jurisdiction.
W.P.(C) 10020/2016 & CM Nos. 39730/2016, 35843- 35844/2018