This article is focused on implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 in the private sector. It is a sequel to an EPW article published in 2013 which put forth that compliance by the private sector organisations to the Supreme Court Vishakha guidelines (1997) was poor and absence of legislation worked to the advantage of employers. Three years since enforcement of the 2013 Act sexual harassment of women persists and continues to be one of the critical issues faced by the private sector (Krasta, 2017; Jha 2017; TNN, 2017; Voices of Women, 2017). These published complaints demonstrate minimum attention by employers for prevention and resolution of sexual harassment which has led the complainants approach social media or law enforcement agencies such as police for help (Mishra, 2017; Financial Express, 2017; Hakim 2017). I argue that this situation has arisen primarily due to certain practices within the private sector with reference to implementation of the 2013 Act. Present article will be highlighting such fundamentally flawed practices which will in turn reveal callous mindset of the employers. These practices not only violate spirit of the 2013 Act but demonstrate hollow commitment by the private sector to deal with the issue.
Sexual harassment continues to plague workplaces in India. The INBA survey (2016) done across private sector organisations reveals that work place was the most sexually aggressive place in their lives of women. It further highlights that of most employers turned blind eye to sexual harassment complaints and lack of awareness amongst women employees about complaint mechanism within the organisation. Additionally it brought forward that employers did not follow complaint resolution process mandated by the statute. Recently it was reported that only around one fourth companies across Gurgaon submitted Annual Report mandated to be submitted by the employer to the government as per 2013 Act and a majority of them either submitted incomplete information or incorrect (Choudhry, 2017). Thus it can be concluded that though the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 provides penalty to employers for non compliance, they did not fulfill obligations mandated by the Act. This can be further inferred from the instances of penalty being imposed by State Labour Commissioners on employers for having not dealt with the reported complaints of sexual harassment in accordance with the law (Kidiyoor, 2014; Business Insider, 2017) and police action against the employer for not having fulfilled obligations under 2013 Act (Nagpur Today, 2017). Criminal cases registered in Mumbai during the year 2016 reveal that 54% of complainants of sexual harassment sought police intervention to deal with sexual harassment from colleagues and seniors (Navalkar, 2017). These scenarios reflect severe shortcomings on part of employers to deal with sexual harassment in a efficient manner. While the Government of India has been taking active steps to monitor implementation of the 2013 Act in government offices (DNA, 2017) there is there is absence of mechanism to check execution in the private sector. The damage that is happening due to state apathy is unpardonable and irreparable.