The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the government to respond on a petition questioning the lack of implementation of the various provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act of 2013.
The 2013 statutory law had replaced the guidelines laid down by the Supreme Court in the historic Vishaka case judgment, which stemmed from the brutal gang rape of a social worker in a village of Rajasthan.
The Supreme Court verdict authored in 1997 by then Chief Justice J.S. Verma was inspired by international conventions and the spirit of gender equality enshrined in the Constitution to declare that “gender equality includes protection from sexual harassment and right to work with dignity, which is a universally recognised basic human right.”
It took another six years for Parliament to enact the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act, 2013 and its Rules.
Apathy of authorities
Now, five years after the Act came into existence, NGO Initiatives for Inclusion Foundation and its trustees Pallavi Pareek and Esha Shekhar have brought to light the sheer lack of initiative on the part of government authorities to monitor the implementation and enforce the law.
A Bench led by Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra issued notice to the Centre and State governments. They have to reply within the next four weeks.
The petition, represented by advocates Sanjay Parikh and Anitha Shenoy, pointed out that the government at the State level has not even bothered to appoint district officers or local committees under the 2013 Act. There are no appointments of nodal officers or internal complaints committees in certain offices. There has been no move to ensure the reporting and collection of annual compliance reports from workplaces. Hence, the law meant to protect working women has hit a roadblock.
“Equality in employment can be seriously impaired when women are subjected to gender-specific violence, such as sexual harassment in the workplace,” the petitioners quoted the Supreme Court judgment in Vishaka case.