Amid a spurt in complaints of sexual abuse, the Supreme Court (SC) on Thursday asked the Central and state governments to file a status report on the implementation of law against sexual harassment of women at workplaces.
A bench led by Chief Justice Dipak Misra issued the notice after hearing a plea filed by NGO Initiatives For Inclusion Foundation. The Centre and all states have been asked to file responses within four weeks.
In the plea, the NGO asked for the appointment of district and nodal officers, and the formation of local and internal complaints committees, under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act, 2013.
The apex court will next hear the petition after four weeks. The law requires workplaces to form Internal Complaints Committees to hear cases of sexual harassment at work. For workplaces with fewer than 10 employees, or when the employer himself is accused, district officers are required to form ‘local committees’ to receive the complaints under the law’s Section 6.
The bench sought reports on constitution of committees and the mechanism to monitor implementation of the law.
“The Act, which was passed in 2013, envisages setting up of district officers, nodal agencies as well as redressal mechanisms at the district level in the form of local complaints committee in each state with the intend to provide protection against sexual harassment of women at work place and for prevention and redressal of complaints.
“However, it is seen that even four years after the Act came into force in India such mechanism has not been created by many state governments and UTs,” said the petition.
In its August 13, 1997 verdict, the apex court had in the Vishaka case laid down detailed guidelines for setting up of internal complaints committee headed by a woman in every government and private organisation to deal with complaints of sexual harassment at workplace. However, after the enactment of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act in 2013, the SC’s Vishaka guidelines ceased to exist. The Act, which replaced the top court’s guidelines, is more elaborate and covers unorganised sector and domestic workers.