12 May 2023 12:03 PM GMT
In a significant judgement, the Supreme Court of India has issued a slew of directions for the proper implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 [POSH Act] all over the country. The Act was enacted with the aim to protect women from sexual harassment at workplaces.The Court has directed the Union Government, State...
In a significant judgement, the Supreme Court of India has issued a slew of directions for the proper implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 [POSH Act] all over the country.
The Act was enacted with the aim to protect women from sexual harassment at workplaces.
The Court has directed the Union Government, State Governments and Union Territories to verify if all the Ministries, Departments, other government bodies have constituted committees where the victims of sexual harassment can lodge their complaints.
Notably, the Court has also directed that statutory bodies of professionals such as the Bar Council of India, National Medical Commission, Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, also constitute such bodies.
A Bench of Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli was considering an appeal plea challenging a Bombay High Court judgement which accepted the report of the Standing Committee (under the POSH Act) and dismissed the appellant from services and future employment.
“To fulfil the promise that the PoSH Act holds out to working women all over the country”, the Court has issued the following directions:
This apart, the Bench also asked the Union and all States/UTs to file their affidavits within eight weeks for reporting compliances. The matter is expected to come up for this purpose after two months.
Serious Lapses In System: SC
The Bench opined that an improperly constituted ICC/LC/IC, would be an impediment in conducting an inquiry into a complaint of sexual harassment at the workplace as the law mandates.
"Just as we celebrate a decade of the PoSH Act being legislated, it is time to look back and take stock of the manner in which the mandate of the Act has been given effect to. The working of the Act is centred on the constitution of the Internal Complaints Committees(ICCs) by every employer at the workplace and constitution of Local Committees(LCs) and the Internal Committees(ICs) by the appropriate Government, as contemplated in Chapters II and III, respectively of the PoSH Act. An improperly constituted ICC/LC/IC, would be an impediment in conducting an inquiry into a complaint of sexual harassment at the workplace, as envisaged under the Statute and the Rules. It will be equally counterproductive to have an ill prepared Committee conduct a half-baked inquiry that can lead to serious consequences, namely, imposition of major penalties on the delinquent employee, to the point of termination of service”.
Noting “serious lapses in the enforcement of the Act” even after such a long passage of time, the Bench was prompted to issue the set of directions. The Bench also referred to a National daily newspaper’s recent survey of 30 national sports federations in the country and reported that 16 out of them have not constituted an ICC till date.
Further, the Bench opined that being the victim of sexual harassment brings down the self-esteem of a person as well as mental and physical health. Despite this, one of the reasons for not reporting instances of sexual harassment could be the uncertainty about “who to approach under the Act for redressal of their grievance”. Another factor is the lack of confidence in the process and its outcome, the Bench pointed out.
“This is indeed a sorry state of affairs and reflects poorly on all the State functionaries, public authorities, private undertakings, organizations and institutions that are duty bound to implement the PoSH Act in letter and spirit. Being a victim of such a deplorable act not only dents the self esteem of a woman, it also takes a toll on her emotional, mental and physical health. It is often seen that when women face sexual harassment at the workplace, they are reluctant to report such misconduct. Many of them even drop out from their job. One of the reasons for this reluctance to report is that there is an uncertainty about who to approach under the Act for redressal of their grievance. Another is the lack of confidence in the process and its outcome. This social malady needs urgent amelioration through robust and efficient implementation of the Act. To achieve this, it is imperative to educate the complainant victim about the import and working of the Act.”
Case Title: Aureliano Fernandes Versus State Of Goa And Others | Civil Appeal No. 2482 Of 2014
Citation : 2023 LiveLaw (SC) 424
Click Here To Read/Download Judgment