The Supreme Court has agreed to review a petition that alleges that the law preventing sexual exploitation of women at workplace is not being implemented.
The SC bench comprising Chief Justice Dipak Misra along with Justice A M Khanwilkar and Justice D Y Chandrachud directed the Centre and the states to respond on why they have failed to appoint mandated officers, and for not setting up local complaint committees in every district to handle such cases.
The bench has directed the authorities to submit their responses within four weeks.
Law Mandates District Level Mechanism
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act was passed in 2013 and requires that states and union territories notify an officer at every district to deal with such cases.
Under its provisions local committees need to be set up at district level to accept complaints from establishments which don’t have an internal committee constituted as a result of having less than ten workers or in cases where the complaint is against the employer.
The petition has been filed by an NGO named Initiatives for Inclusion Foundation which alleges that that most of the states and UTs have not implemented the law in its true spirit.
Petition Highlights Lack Of Compliance By States/UT
In the petition, the NGO’s managing trustee Esha Shekhar has sought the apex court to direct the government to enforce the provisions contained in the Act.
Appearing for the petitioner, advocate Sanjay Parikh, informed the bench that the protection as provided to working women under the law was failing to reach remote areas since the governments have not developed the necessary mechanism at local level to receive complaints related to sexual harassment incidents.
Breach Of Fundamental Rights Of Women
The petition pointed out that unless district officers are notified in all districts and local complaint committees(LCC) are set up it would not be possible to “effectively implement” the provisions of the Act.
Similarly nodal offices must be appointed at every district for proper implementation, the petition noted. In these aspects, the petition alleged that a majority of the states/UTs were “non- compliant”.
According to the petitioner, women working at the grass-root level are victims of sexual harassment, which they “suffer silently in the absence of any grievance redressal mechanism.” It further alleged that the states/UTs were reluctant to implement the mandatory mechanism even after four years which was a “breach of fundamental rights of women and their dignity.”