Archive for March 2013


The need for a law on protection of women from sexual harassment at the workplace first came to limelight in the case of Vishaka & Ors v/s State of Rajasthan & Ors AIR 1997 SC3011 (known as the Vishaka Case). The said case was heard in the Supreme Court on a Writ Petition filed by certain social activists and NGOs to bring attention towards the rampant gender bias and need for safety and security of working women.

While India, has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) adopted by the UN General Assembly, much was left to be done at the ground level. Emphasis on equality and protection of women has also been emphasized in the Fundamental Rights, Directive Principles and State Policy and the Fundament Duties, in the Constitution of India.

Keeping in view the same the Supreme Court framed guidelines for the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment at the Workplace.

These guidelines have put the onus of taking preventive and redressal measures on the Employer.

Sexual harassment has been explained as any unwelcome sexually determined behavior, whether direct or by implication such as physical contact or advances; a demand or request for sexual favors; sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography and any unwelcome physical, verbal or non verbal conduct of sexual nature.

The guidelines have recommended a redressal mechanism. It provides for the constitution of a Complaints Committee, headed by a woman and having amongst its members an NGO or other body familiar with the issue of sexual harassment.

Where the action or harassment complained of amounts to a specific offence under the Indian Penal Code, the employer shall initiate appropriate action by making complaint with the appropriate authority.

Where the conduct complained of amounts to misconduct in employment as per the relevant service rules, then appropriate disciplinary action shall be initiated against the offender. Whether or not the conduct complained of amounts to an offence under the law, it is mandated that a redressal mechanism is created.

As important as the redressal measures, are preventive steps recommended by the Court. The employers is supposed to take steps such as express prohibition of conduct amounting to sexual harassment, prescribing penalties in the service rules and most importantly creating appropriate working conditions with adequate leisure, hygiene etc and ensuring that there is no hostile environment towards women and ensuring that no woman employee feels or apprehends that she is at a disadvantage because of her gender.

Keeping in mind the same The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012 was passed by the Union Parliament in February 2013, and is awaiting the President’s Assent.

Naqsha H Biliangady
Mento Associates