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Medha Kotwal Lele v. Union of India
(2013) 1 SCC 297
JUDGES: K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra, JJ.
Date of Decision: 19-10-2012

This Public Interest Litigation raises the grievance that women continue to be victims of sexual harassment at workplaces even after the directions issued by the Supreme Court in Vishakha v. State of Rajasthan, (1997) 6 SCC 241.

Sexual harassment of women at workplace.

The implementation of the guidelines in Vishakha case has to be not only in form but substance and spirit so as to make available safe and secure environment to women at the workplace in every aspect and thereby enabling the working women to work with dignity, decency and due respect. We are of the considered view that the existing laws, if necessary, be revised and appropriate new laws be enacted by Parliament and the State Legislatures to protect women from any form of indecency, indignity and disrespect at all places (in their homes as well as outside), prevent all forms of violence – domestic violence, sexual assault, sexual harassment at the workplace, etc; – and provide new initiatives for education and advancement of women and girls in all spheres of life. The guidelines in Vishakha should not remain symbolic and the following further directions are necessary until legislative enactment on the subject is in place:

(i) The States and Union Territories which have not yet carried out adequate and appropriate amendments in their respective Civil Services Conduct Rules (By whatever name these Rules are called) shall do so within two months from today by providing that the report of the Complaints Committee shall be deemed to be an inquiry report in a disciplinary action under such Civil Services Conduct Rules. In other words, the disciplinary authority shall treat the report/findings etc. of the Complaints Committee as the findings in a disciplinary inquiry against the delinquent employee and shall act on such report accordingly.
(ii) The States and Union Territories which have not carried out amendments in the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Rules shall now carry out amendments on the same lines, as noted above in clause (i) within two months.

(iii) The States and Union Territories shall form adequate number of Complaints Committees so as to ensure that they function at taluka level, district level and state level. Those States and/or Union Territories which have formed only one Committee for the entire State shall now form adequate number of Complaints Committees within two months from today. Each of such Complaints Committees shall be headed by a woman and as far as possible in such Committees an independent member shall be associated.

(iv) The State functionaries and private and public sector undertakings/organisations/bodies/institutions etc. shall put in place sufficient mechanism to ensure full implementation of the Visakha guidelines and further provide that if the alleged harasser is found guilty, the complainant – victim is not forced to work with/under such harasser and where appropriate and possible the alleged harasser should be transferred. Further provision should be made that harassment and intimidation of witnesses and the complainants shall be met with severe disciplinary action.

(v) The Bar Council of India shall ensure that all bar associations in the country and persons registered with the State Bar Councils follow the Visakha guidelines. Similarly, Medical Council of India, Council of Architecture, Institute of Chartered Accountants, Institute of Company Secretaries and other statutory Institutes shall ensure that the organisations, bodies, associations, institutions and persons registered/affiliated with them follow the guidelines laid down by Visakha. To achieve this, necessary instructions/circulars shall be issued by all the statutory bodies such as Bar Council of India, Medical Council of India, Council of Architecture, Institute of Company Secretaries within two months from today. On receipt of any complaint of sexual harassment at any of the places referred to above the same shall be dealt with by the statutory bodies in accordance with the Visakha guidelines and the guidelines in the present order.

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