LANDMARK JUDGMENTS ON SEXUAL HARASSEMENT AT WORK PLACE IN INDIA

1.Vishaka vs. State of Rajasthan and Ors JT 1997 (7) SC 384

Bench: J.S. Verma, Sujata V. Manohar, B. N. Kirpal

This was a landmark case for protection of women against sexual harassment at workplace as in this case certain guidelines were issued making it compulsory for every employer to provide a mechanism to redress grievances of women related to sexual harassment at workplace.

Facts: In this case a lower caste social worker of Women’s Development Program of the Rajasthan Government, named Bhanwari Devi was trying to stop a child marriage in her village as it was a part of her duties as a member of the Development Program to stop any illegal activity conducted against children and women and instead she was gang-raped by five men of the upper-class community. She went to the police station to lodge a F.I.R.  but no investigation was conducted.

Issue: This raised so many questions on how a working woman is exposed to hazards on a daily basis and raised an issue whether the employer has any responsibility or not?

Held: Supreme Court held that sexual harassment of women at workplace violates her fundamental rights under Article 14,15,19 and 21 of the Constitution and also a private Injury to an individual and therefore laid down following guidelines.

  1. It is the duty of every employer to prescribe the procedure and deliver a sense of security to every women employee.
  2. Government should make laws and regulations to prohibit sexual harassment
  3. The organization should have a well set up complaint mechanism.
  4. This complaint mechanism should be headed by a women member and at least 50% of the committee members should be women so that victims do not feel ashamed while communicating their problems.
  5. It is the duty of the every organization to aware the female employees regarding their rights.
  6. These guidelines were also to be followed by employers in private sectors.

2. Medha Kotwal Lele & ors. v. Union of India & Ors ((2013) 1 SCC 297)

Bench: R.M. Lodha, Anil R. Dave, Ranjan Gogoi

Issue: Dr.  Medha Kotwal of Aalochana (an NGO) highlighted that the Vishaka Guidelines were not being effectively implemented through a letter. The letter was converted into a writ petition and Supreme Court took cognizance and directed all State Governments to file affidavits emphasizing on the steps taken by them to implement the Vishaka Guidelines.

SC further issued orders to national organizations such as the Bar Council of India, to implement the Vishakha Guidelines in spiri, Not being satisfied with the implementation of the Vishaka Guidelines, it directed States to put in place sufficient mechanisms to ensure effective implementation of the Vishaka Guidelines.

Held: Supreme Court stated in case of a non-compliance or of the Vishaka Guidelines, it would be open to the aggrieved persons to approach the respective High Courts.

  1. Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K Chopra ((1999) 1 SCC 759)

Bench: V.N. Khare

Held: Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of a superior officer of the Delhi based Apparel Export Promotion Council who was found guilty of sexually harassing a subordinate female employee at the workplace.

Supreme Court expanded the definition of sexual harassment by stating  that physical contact was not important for it to amount to an act of sexual harassment.

The Supreme Court further said that “sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination projected through unwanted sexual advances, request for sexual favors and other verbal or physical action with sexual overtones, whether directly or by implication, especially when submission to or rejection of such action by the female employee was competent of being used for affecting the employment of the female employee and absurd interfering with her work performance and had the effect of creating an intimidating or hostile work environment for her.”

 The Supreme Court declared that sexual harassment is gender discrimination against women and any act or attempt of molestation by a superior will constitute sexual harassment.

 

  1. Mukesh & Anr. vs. State for NCT of Delhi & Ors. ((2017) 6 SCC 1)

Bench:Dipak Misra, R. Banumathi, Ashok Bhushan

Facts: In this case a 23-year-old trainee woman was brutally raped repeatedly by five adult men and a juvenile on the night of 16th December 2012 onto a moving bus in Delhi leading to anationwide revulsion and various legislative reforms in rape laws.

This was a landmark case as a penal was set up under the chairmanship of Justice Verma for analyzing criminal laws and on basis of its recommendations, Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was passed which inserted a new Section 354 A to the Indian Penal Code that stipulates what consists of a sexual harassment offence and its punishment.

  1. Mrs. Rupan Deol Bajaj V. Kanwar Pal Singh Gill (AIR 1996 SC 309)

Bench: Mukherjee M.K. (J)

Facts:This case, famously known as “the butt-slapping case”. Mrs. Rupan Deol Bajaj, an officer of the Indian Administrative Services belonging to the Punjab Cadre, lodged a F.I.R. alleging commission of offences under Sections 341, 342, 352, 354, and 509 of the Indian Penal Code by Mr. K.P.S. Gill, the DGP, at a dinner party.

This case has changed the meaning of the terms, modesty and privacy in such a way that, any kind of harassment or inconvenience done to a women’s private or public life will be considered as an offence.

Submitted by:

Darshika Raghani

3rd Year Student

Manipal University, Jaipur

 

Author: Knowledge Steez

Founders Account

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