Rejection of Meesha’s complaint by ombudsperson: Employment with firm couldn’t be established: LHC

Updated October 19, 2019

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Meesha Shafi's complaint by the ombudsperson about allegations of sexual harassment against singer/actor Ali Zafar states she failed to establish the relationship of employee with a production company that also signed an agreement with the suspect. — Dawn.com/File
Meesha Shafi's complaint by the ombudsperson about allegations of sexual harassment against singer/actor Ali Zafar states she failed to establish the relationship of employee with a production company that also signed an agreement with the suspect. — Dawn.com/File

LAHORE: A detailed verdict of the Lahore High Court on a petition by singer Meesha Shafi against rejection of her complaint by the ombudsperson about allegations of sexual harassment against singer/actor Ali Zafar states that Ms Shafi failed to establish the relationship of employee with a production company that also signed an agreement with the suspect.

It said the agreement between Ms Shafi and the company was for the provision of services and its clause 6.11 was sufficient reflection of the intention of the parties not to create an employment relationship.

Meesha had moved a petition challenging rejection of her complaint by the ombudsperson and subsequently the governor wherein she accused Zafar of sexual harassment and sought action against him under Punjab Protection against Harassment of Women at Workplace Act 2012.

“The petitioner invites this Court to hold that the purpose of the law is to include even an independent and self-employed woman to be included in the term employee. This will be a mockery of law. Not only that many of such women would be loathe to be conferred such a status and subject themselves to the complete control and sway of an employer,” ruled Justice Shahid Karim in a 34-page verdict, which dismissed the petition being incompetent and without merit.

The judge observed that if the petitioner sought to be treated as an employee, it must be in the entirety of the concept and not on the basis of a strained construction put on words, whimsically.

Justice Karim observed the petitioner neither claimed to be a worker of the production company nor did she admit to have entered into a contract of employment with it. Apart from this, he said, the complaint was not in respect of an employee of the company who could be summoned as an accused and punished.

“The accused under the law must be an employee of the organisation which operates the workplace and if it is not, then the complaint suffers from legal infirmity and must fall on barren ground,” the judge added.

The judge maintained that the petitioner was not an integral part of the firm and was merely engaged for the purpose of completing a specific task.

The judge left unanswered a question raised by Zafar’s counsel for being unnecessary. It was that the petitioner was, even by her own showing, not an employee at the time of making the complaint.

“This issue is not required to be answered for it does not arise as it has been held that the petitioner was not an employee anyway,” Justice Karim ruled referring to a quote by US Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts: “If it is not necessary to decide more, it is necessary not to decide more.”

Published in Dawn, October 19th, 2019