In 1997, the Supreme Court laid down guidelines in the Vishaka case, pending formal legislation, for dealing with sexual harassment of women at the workplace.

An offshoot of a rape case involving a social worker in Rajasthan, the verdict defined sexual harassment, laid down duties of employers in dealing with complaints and stipulated formation of committees to dispose of complaints from victims of harassment.

Its definition included any sort of unwelcome, sexually determined physical, verbal and non-verbal conduct, and covered situations that disadvantaged women in their workplace, threatened their employment status or recruitment or promotion.

It laid down duties for employers to ensure that there was no hostile environment for women, barred victimisation of affected women and witnesses and directed an express ban on sexual harassment through rules and regulations of service or standing orders in the private sector.

It contemplated Complaints Committees at all workplaces, headed by a woman employee, with not less than half of its members being women.

The verdict invoked provisions of international law including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women.