A lady social worker in was brutally gang raped in a village of Rajasthan as she tried to stop a child marriage. This ruthless incident took place on 22nd September 1992 and was the cause of immediate filling of this writ petition.

The writ petition was filed by NGOs and social activists to enforce the fundamental right of working women under Article 14, 19, 21 and 32 of the constitution of India.

Articles 14, 19 and 21 of the Constitution of India guarantee gender equality and right to work with human dignity and Articles 32, 14 and 21 guarantee gender equality and prevent sexual harassment and abuse of working women at work places.

This incident was the violation of Fundamental Right to practice any profession or carry out any occupation, trade or business under Article 19(1)(g). Therefore, attracts remedy under Article 32. Hence, The Supreme Court, in exercise of powers under Article 32 laid down guidelines and norms to deal with sexual harassment at workplace. These guidelines are to be treated as law declared under Article 14, and are applicable to both public and private sector. These Guidelines are:

a) It shall be the duty of employer or other responsible person to prevent such acts and also to provide remedy, resolution or settlements by taking necessary steps when such acts happens.

b) Express prohibition of sexual harassment at work place should be notified, published and circulated at appropriate ways. These prohibitions should b included in Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 and even if so happens appropriate action against offender will be taken.

c) Such sexual harassment is an offence under IPC or under any other law.

d) Disciplinary action will be taken against any sexual conduct.

e) Complaints Committee should be created and headed by woman and must also include third party like an NGO or other body familiar with the laws and issues of sexual harassment.

f) Complaint mechanism must be set up by time-bound redress to address the complaints made by the victim.

g) Worker’s should take up initiative and also raise awareness against the issues of sexual harassment.

h) When sexual harassment occurs as an act by any third person, the employer or the person in-charge should take up all the necessary steps to assist the affected woman in terms of support and take preventive action.

Credit: Megha Balakrishna Kotian

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