In 1997, the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India, in Vishaka and Others Vs. State of Rajasthan and Others1("Vishaka Judgment") acknowledged the gravity of sexual harassment of the working women at the workplaces and laid down guidelines making it mandatory for employers to prevent the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide the procedures for the resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts of sexual harassment. The guidelines issued by the Hon'ble Supreme Court were treated as law declared by the Hon'ble Supreme Court under Article 1412 of the Constitution of India. It was held by the Hon'ble Supreme Court that the guidelines framed by the Supreme Court would be strictly observed in all work places for the prevention and enforcement of the right to gender equality of the working women.
It was observed by various Courts from time to time in the past that the guidelines and norms framed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Vishaka Judgment have not been followed in workplaces strictly.
The increasing work participation rate of women made it imperative for enacting a comprehensive legislation focusing on prevention of sexual harassment as well as providing a redressal mechanism
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 & Rules made therein
In 2013, after a span of 16 years, India finally enacted the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act') for prevention of sexual harassment against women at the workplaces. The Central Government vide notification SO 3606 (E) appointed 9 December 2013 as the date on which the provisions of the Act came into force and on the same day, the Central Government made the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 ("Rules").
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. It was passed by the Lok Sabha (the lower house of the Indian Parliament) on 3 September 2012. It was passed by the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament) on 26 February 2013. The Bill got the assent of the President on 23 April 2013. The Act came into force from 9 December 2013. This statute superseded the Vishakha Guidelines for prevention of sexual harassment introduced by the Supreme Court of India. It was reported by the International Labour Organization that very few Indian employers were compliant to this statute. Most Indian employer's have not implemented the law despite the legal requirement that any workplace with more than 10 employees need to implement it. The government has threatened to take stern action against employers who fail to comply with this law.
The introductory text of the Act is:
An Act to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.
WHEREAS sexual harassment results in violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and to live with dignity under article 21 of the Constitution and right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business which includes a right to a safe environment free from sexual harassment;
AND WHEREAS the protection against sexual harassment and the right to work with dignity are universally recognised human rights by international conventions and instruments such as Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, which has been ratified on the 25th June, 1993 by the Government of India;
AND WHEREAS it is expedient to make provisions for giving effect to the said Convention for protection of women against sexual harassment at workplace.
According to the Press Information Bureau of the Government of India:
The Act will ensure that women are protected against sexual harassment at all the work places, be it in public or private. This will contribute to realisation of their right to gender equality, life and liberty and equality in working conditions everywhere. The sense of security at the workplace will improve women's participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth.
The Act uses a definition of sexual harassment which was laid down by the Supreme Court of India in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997). Article 19 (1) g of the Indian Constitution affirms the right of all citizens to be employed in any profession of their choosing or to practice their own trade or business. Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan established that actions resulting in a violation of one's rights to ‘Gender Equality’ and ‘Life and Liberty’ are in fact a violation of the victim’s fundamental right under Article 19 (1) g. The case ruling establishes that sexual harassment violates a woman's rights in the workplace and is thus not just a matter of personal injury.
Under the Act, which also covers students in schools and colleges as well as patients in hospitals, employers and local authorities will have to set up grievance committees to investigate all complaints. Employers who fail to comply will be punished with a fine of up to 50,000 rupees.
The legislative progress of the Act has been a lengthy one. The Bill was first introduced by women and child development minister Krishna Tirath in 2007 and approved by the Union Cabinet in January 2010. It was tabled in the Lok Sabha in December 2010 and referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources Development. The committee's report was published on 30 November 2011. In May 2012, the Union Cabinet approved an amendment to include domestic workers. The amended Bill was finally passed by the Lok Sabha on 3 September 2012. The Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha (the upper house of the Indian Parliament) on 26 February 2013. It received the assent of the President of India and was published in the Gazette of India, Extraordinary, Part-II, Section-1, dated the 23rd April 2013 as Act No. 14 of 2013.
The Act has adopted the definition of 'sexual harassment' from Vishaka Judgment and the term sexual harassment includes any unwelcome acts or behaviour (whether directly or by implication) such as physical contact and advances, demand or request for sexual favours, making sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
In, Apparel Export Promotion Council Vs. A.K. Chopra3, the Hon'ble Supreme Court while deciding an issue whether the act of a superior officer (wherein such superior officer tried to molest his junior woman employee) would amount to sexual harassment, the Court relied on the definition of the term 'sexual harassment' laid down by the Supreme Court in the Vishaka Judgment (which is similar to the definition of the Sexual Harassment provided in the Act) held that "the act of the respondent was unbecoming of good conduct and behavior expected from a superior officer and undoubtedly amounted to sexual harassment...".
Section 3 of the Act provides that no woman shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace. This section further provides the circumstances which if present or connected with any act or behaviour of sexual harassment may amount to sexual harassment such as implied or expressed promise to preferential treatment or implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in her employment, implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment, interference with work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment, humiliating treatment likely to affect health or safety of a woman.
The Act is enacted by the Indian Parliament to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Sexual harassment is termed as a violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under Articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India and right to life and to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Sexual harassment is also considered a violation of a right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business which includes a right to a safe environment free from sexual harassment.
- The Act defines sexual harassment at the work place and creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints. It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.
- The definition of “aggrieved woman”, who will get protection under the Act is extremely wide to cover all women, irrespective of her age or employment status, whether in the organised or unorganised sectors, public or private and covers clients, customers and domestic workers as well.
- While the “workplace” in the Vishaka Guidelines is confined to the traditional office set-up where there is a clear employer-employee relationship, the Act goes much further to include organisations, department, office, branch unit etc. in the public and private sector, organized and unorganized, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complex and any place visited by the employee during the course of employment including the transportation. Even non-traditional workplaces which involve tele-commuting will get covered under this law.
- The Committee is required to complete the inquiry within a time period of 90 days. On completion of the inquiry, the report will be sent to the employer or the District Officer, as the case may be, they are mandated to take action on the report within 60 days.
- Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee at each office or branch with 10 or more employees. The District Officer is required to constitute a Local Complaints Committee at each district, and if required at the block level.
- The Complaints Committees have the powers of civil courts for gathering evidence.
- The Complaints Committees are required to provide for conciliation before initiating an inquiry, if requested by the complainant.
- Penalties have been prescribed for employers. Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to 50,000. Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.
Complaints Committee & Complaint Procedure
Internal Complaints Committee:
The Act makes it mandatory for every employer to constitute an internal complaints committee ("ICC") which entertains the complaints made by any aggrieved women. The members of the ICC are to be nominated by the employer and ICC should consist of i) a Presiding Officer, ii) not less than two members from amongst employees preferably committed to the cause or women or who have had experience in social work or have legal knowledge and iii) one member from amongst non-governmental organizations or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment. In order to ensure participation of women employees in the ICC proceedings, the Act requires that at least one-half of the members of ICC nominated by employer are women.
Local Complaints Committee:
Provisions are provided under the Act to form Local Complaints Committee (LCC) for every district for receiving complaints of sexual harassment from establishments where the ICC has not been formed due to having less than 10 workers or if the complaint is against the employer himself.
- The Act stipulates that aggrieved woman can make written complaint of sexual harassment at workplace to the ICC or to the LCC (in case a complaint is against the employer), within a period of three months from the date of incident and in case of a series of incidents, within a period of three months from the date of last incident. If the aggrieved woman is unable to make complaint in writing, reasonable assistance shall be rendered by the presiding officer or any member of the ICC (or in case the aggrieved woman is unable to make complaint in writing to the LCC, the reasonable assistance shall be rendered by the Chairperson or any member of the LCC) for making the complaint in writing.
- As per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 20135 , in case the aggrieved woman is unable to make a complaint on account of her physical incapacity, a complaint may be filed inter alia by her relative or friend or her co-worker or an officer of the National Commission for Woman or State Women's Commission or any person who has knowledge of the incident, with the written consent of the aggrieved woman.
- Penal Code
- Main article: Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013
- Through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, Section 354 was added to the Indian Penal Code that stipulates what consists of a sexual harassment offence and what the penalties shall be for a man committing such an offence. Penalties range from one to three years imprisonment and/or a fine. Additionally, with sexual harassment being a crime, employers are obligated to report offences.
|University (Nodal Officer)/ Chairman of all the units of UHSB
|Deans/ Dean (PGS)
|Director of Research
|On campus and off campus training programmes
|A slot may be created during the regular training programmes, to create awareness among rural folk.
|Director of Extension
|Disseminating educative information by Display of posters, banners etc.,
Email id: email@example.com