Case Comment: Union of India V. Dilip Paul

Details of the Case:

Bench- Chief Justice DY Chandrachud, accompanied by Justices JB Pardiwala, & Manoj Misra

First Case Admitted on- 30th August 2011

Last Date of Hearing -November 6, 2023

Court- Supreme Court of India.


Union of India V. Dilip Paul was a landmark judgement because it is established the standard of proof for complaints committed which enquires into sexual harassment cases. The Supreme Court in the matter of Union of India & Ors. V. Dilip Paul, held that the allegations of sexual harassment should be considered within the broader context of the case and should not be judged merely on the basis of a procedural violation. 

Facts of the Case:

The case between Union of India and Dilip Paul revolves around a Sexual Harassment Filed in 2011 against Dilip Paul (Respondent) was serving as the Local Head of Office- Service Selection Board (SCB) of the Service Selection Board in the State of Assam by a woman (Complainant) who was employee in the very same office was serving as the Field Assistant. The lady said he sexually harassed her by Making phone calls at night, visiting her house when her husband was not in the house, making her seat late at office, & making sexually coloured remarks. The first complaint was filed on 30th August 2011 which was initially submitted to the Inspector General (IG) and subsequently forwarded to several authorities, including the Chairperson of the National Women Rights Commission, New Delhi. On the 18th September 2012, the complainant submitted a second complaint containing additional allegations against the respondent through fax.

Two initial inquiries, a fact-finding inquiry and a Frontier Complaints Committee inquiry, failed to substantiate the allegations.

In 2012, a Central Complaints Committee (CCC) under the civil central services rules was setup to inquire into sexual harassment allegations based on oral testimony of witnesses, During the inquiry Mr. Dilip Paul denied that he has sexual harassed the women concluded that Dilip Paul was guilty. The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) imposed a penalty on Dilip Paul withholding 50% of his monthly pension on a permanent basis.

During pendency of such disciplinary proceedings, the respondent superannuated on 31-03-2013 as Dy. IG, Frontier Headquarters, SSB and was granted provisional pension without retirement gratuity. In 2013, Dilip Paul Challenged the MHA’S Penalty order before the Central Administrative Tribunal, Guwahati, which dismissed his application. Subsequently, he appealed to the Guwahati High Court, in 2019 which ruled in his favour. 

Subsequently, the Central Government appealed against the High Court order before the Supreme Court. 


  1. The Appellants argued that there was no violation of the principles of natural justice in the case.  In this case, the Appellant was given not only a hearing but an adequate and fair one before the penalty of withholding 50% of his pension was imposed.
  1. The Appellants asserted that the Respondent was not prejudiced by the non-supply of reports from on-spot inquiries of the Frontier Level Complaint Committee.
  1. The Appellants contended that the punishment imposed on the Respondent is proportionate to the offense committed. 


  1. The scope of judicial review in cases of misconduct and penalty imposition is limited to ensuring charges are established by ENA on a fair inquiry.
  1. Rule 15 of the CCS (CCA) Rules, 1965 restricts the holding of a second inquiry. In this case, despite the Respondent’s exoneration in three successive inquiries, a fourth inquiry was initiated.
  1. The High Court rightly pointed out this procedural error. The CCC acted as a prosecutor, as evident from its examination of prosecution witnesses. Its findings were based on surmises and conjectures, rather than evidence on record.
  1. The Respondent’s exemplary service and previous exoneration in three inquiries demonstrate his innocence. 


  1. Whether the CCC may directly cross- examine the witnesses during Disciplinary Proceedings in Sexual Harassment complaint similar to the rule of prosecutors?
  1. Second Important findings by SC import was the court may not interfere in the decision of the infamy committee unless the findings are based on No-Evidence or the decision of infamy committee unreasonable. 

What is Sexual Harassment?

Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 (IPC) deals with Sexual harassment and punishment for sexual harassment. It states that –

  1. A man committing any of the following acts-

(i) Physical contact and advances involving unwelcome and explicit sexual overtures; or

(ii) A demand or request for sexual favours;

(iii) Showing pornography against the will of a woman; or

(iv) Making sexually coloured remarks,

Shall be guilty of the offence of sexual harassment.

(2) Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (i) or clause (ii) or clause (iii) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine, or with both.
(3) Any man who commits the offence specified in clause (iv) of sub-section (1) shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both. 

The turning point against the growing social menace of sexual harassment of women at workplace could be traced back to the pathbreaking decision of the SC in the case of Vishaka and Ors v. State of Rajasthan (1997).


  • A bench comprising Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, Justices JB Pardiwala and Manoj Misra held that allegations of sexual harassment should be considered within the broader context of the case and should not be judged merely on the basis of a procedural violation.
  • The Court also highlighted the limited jurisdiction of the HC in such matters. It stated that the HC should not function as an appellate authority or replace its own findings with those of the disciplinary authority.


The Courts further observed that the Rule of Evidence under the Indian Evidence Act, not applicable to Disciplinary Proceedings. This means that the Sexual Harassment allegations do not have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt.

Instead, the decision Should be in favour of the party which produces more convincing evidence than the other party.

The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Government after finding out that the findings of CCC, Central Complaints Committee, was supported by the oral testimony of witnesses.

For instant case being projected as a case of ‘no evidence’ and the standard of proof in disciplinary proceedings, the Court referred to a catena of cases and then went on to the witness statements in the instant matter to hold that it was not a case of ‘no evidence’, as ignored by the High Court. However, the Court agreed with the High Court’s findings as against multiple inquiries.

 The Court allowed the instant appeal while setting aside the impugned judgment and order dated 15-05-2019 and restoring the penalty imposed by the Disciplinary Authority. However, the Appellant was ordered not to recover any amount already paid to the Respondent so far.  


UNION OF INDIA V. DILIP PAUL was a landmark judgment because is it established the Standard of Proof for Complainants Committees which inquire into Sexual Harassment Cases. In this case, the SC recognized sexual harassment at the workplace as a violation of a woman’s fundamental right to equality and dignity.

 In India, it has been a matter of serious concern, and the development of laws to combat sexual harassment is a testament to the nation’s commitment towards addressing this problem. Sexual harassment is in grave violation of the fundamental rights of a woman. It means any unwanted conduct of sexual nature. 




Sanika Tendulkar

Savitribai Phule Pune University