The Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a PIL which sought that the Vishakha guidelines on sexual harassment at workplaces be extended to religious institutions as well.
The bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi was of the view that judicial orders cannot be passed to grant the prayers in the petition and that sexual harassment committees cannot be constituted for religious places.
'How can we include religious institutions under the Vishakha guidelines?', asked the Chief Justice, junking the PIL.
The plea sought that the Vishakha guidelines against sexual harassment at workplace may also be made applicable to ashrams, madrasas and Catholic institutions. The petition filed by advocate Maneesh Pathak said religious institutions also have women employed there other than those working on a voluntary basis.
"If the Vishakha Guidelines are extended to these religious institutions, it would assist a lot in reducing sexually related crimes against women at religious places by gurus or leaders of that particular institution", it was averred.
The apex court had on August 13, 1997, in the Vishakha case, laid down as many as 12 guidelines to be followed by employers to prevent or deter acts of sexual harassments against women.
The 2018 petition said religious places constitute part of workplace as many women are employed there, other than those working on a voluntarily basis.
The petition sought collection of data of such religious institutions where women practice and profess religion, for taking effective steps on the basis of the guidelines to provide assistance to the victims of sexual assaults. It also sought the Centre to direct the authorities concerned of the particular area, where such religious institutions are situated, to do the background verification religious leaders, especially "new upcoming babas" or "heads of those madarsas" and churches.
It also sought directions to the Centre to provide adequate measures for women safety at religious places by conducting periodic checks from state women panels.
The petition mentioned incidents of sexual exploitation in religious institutions such as the issue of the Kerala priest, and other gurus like Daati Maharaj, Baba Ram Rahim and Aasaram Bapu
The women are fearful of sexual exploitation while joining or interacting with "religious institutions like ashrams, madarsas or the catholic institutions to profess their religious activities", the petition said.
It needs a considerable framing of policies based on the Vishakha guidelines so that women may feel safe at religious places, it said.
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