This article has been written by Harshit Khandelwal, 2nd year Law student currently pursuing BBA-LL.B(Hons.) from Unitedworld School of Law, Karnavati University.
13TH August, 1997
AIR 1997 SCC 241
J.S. Verma CJ., Sujata V. Manohar, B.N. Kripal JJ.
Sexual Harassment at of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013
Bhanwari Devi was a woman from a village in Rajasthan who was a social activist/worker aiming to end the evil of Child Marriage in India. She was working at a rural level with a social development program which was about to stop child marriage in a village and this program was an initiative of Rajasthan State Government. Bhanwari Devi tried her best to stop the marriage which was going on in Ramakant Gujjar’s family. However, even after the protest, the marriage was completed. After that Bhanwari Devi was exposed and put forward to boycott and social punishment. In 1992, to take revenge from Vishaka, Ramakant along with 5 other men raped her in front of her husband. At first, the police department tried to discourage them from filing the complaint by continuously giving them excuses, but still, she managed to lodge a complaint against them. At the police station, she was subjected to a lot of cruelty by the female police constable and even her lehenga was demanded by the police as evidence and then she was left with nothing except her husband’s blood-stained dhoti. The police also refused their request to spend the night at the police station.
The trial court announced the judgement in which the accused was discharged for not being guilty of any offence against Vishaka. After the judgement of the trial court still, she didn’t lose hope and by seeing this determination NGO and many female workers supported her. With their support, a complaint was filed before the Supreme Court of India under the name of “Vishaka”. To frame guidelines for preventing Sexual Harassment at the Workplace, the apex court was called upon to frame guidelines in this matter.
After this, the Supreme Court of India comes up with guidelines known as “Vishaka Guidelines”. It formed the basis of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
Whether the enactment of guidelines was mandatory for the sexual harassment of women at workplace?
Chief Justice J.S. Verma conveyed the judgement of Vishaka’s case. Verma J was a representative of Justice B.N. Kripal and Justice Sujata V. Manohar on account of the writ petition which was filed before the Supreme Court by Vishaka. Gender equality finds a place in Fundamental Rights laid down under Article 14, 19, and 21. It violated the right to live a dignified life and the right to life as well. The basic requirement of filing the case was that there should be a safe working environment at the workplace for women.
After hearing all the pleadings from both the sides the bench decided that women should have Fundamental Rights for Sexual Harassment at the Workplace. The court also issued some guidelines which need to be followed by the employees which will help them avoid Sexual Harassment of Women at the Workplace. The court also mentioned that there should be proper techniques which need to be followed in the cases related to sexual harassment at the workplace. Gender equality among people was the main aim and objective of the Supreme Court and to also ensure that there should no discrimination against women at workplace. After the judgement of this case, Supreme Court defined Sexual Harassment as any physical touch or conduct, any unpleasant taunt or misbehaviour, showing of pornography, sexual favour or any sexual desire towards women will come under the context of Sexual Harassment.
Supreme Court in the case of Vishaka & Ors. V. The State of Rajasthan specifically defined the actual meaning of Sexual Harassment which states that any uninvited or unwanted physical touch or conduct or any definable sexual comment or showing of pornography comes under the term ‘Sexual Harassment’.
According to me, any such type of conduct against women violates the right to life of women and the right to live a dignified life as well. It hinders both the physical and mental health of women. Equality among genders should be followed at the workplace and sexual harassment should be avoided which is happening against the women very often in today’s world.
The Supreme Court also issued the guidelines that whether it be a public or private organization, the person-in-charge or the head of the organization will be responsible for taking appropriate actions against sexual harassment at the workplace against women.
Sexual Harassment at the workplace in India is increasing at a very high speed. Some strict actions need to be taken against it, otherwise, it will hamper the working ratio of women in India, and eventually, the number of women working will reduce day by day. Gender equality was the main objective behind the stabilization of this right so that the discrimination against women can be reduced. This practice needs to be stopped to prevent the respect and dignity of women in India.
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