“Vishaka Guidelines” and “The Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act 2013”

What is the News?

A Delhi court has acquitted a former journalist in a defamation case filed by former Union minister.

In this case, a journalist initially made allegations of sexual harassment against the former Union Minister. In turn, a criminal defamation case was filed in Delhi High Court against the journalist by Union Minister. However, Delhi High Court acquitted the journalist of the Criminal Defamation charges in its very recent verdict.

Key Observations made by the Court:

  • Sexual abuse takes away the dignity and self-confidence of women. So the right to dignity will be protected not the right of the reputation of a person.
  • The women have the right to put her grievance even after decades after the occurrence of the incident.
  • As there was no Vishaka Guidelines and The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 at the time of the harassment.

Vishaka Guidelines

In 1997 as part of the Vishaka judgment, the Supreme Court laid down specific guidelines on the prevention of sexual harassment of women at the workplace. The important points of the guidelines were:

  • The Vishaka guidelines defined sexual harassment and codified preventive measures like the formation of the complaints committee
  • All employers both public and private sector should take appropriate steps to prevent sexual harassment.
  • Victims of sexual harassment should have the option to seek transfer of the perpetrator or their own transfer.
  • The guidelines were superseded by the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace(prevention, prohibition and redressal) Act, 2013:

The government enacted the Act in 2013The major provisions of the Act were,

  1. Aim: To prevent and protect women against sexual harassment at the workplace and also to ensure effective redressal of complaints of sexual harassment.
  2. The Act defines sexual harassment in the workplace. The Act creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints. It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.
  3. Every workplace is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC). The ICC is mandatory at each office or branch with 10 or more employees.
  4. These Internal Complaints Committees have the powers of civil courts for gathering evidence.
  5. Penalties have been prescribed for employers. Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine.
  6. Higher penalties and cancellation of license or registration to conduct business is also mentioned if violations are repeated.

Further Section 354A was added to the Indian Penal Code through the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 to provide enough punishment for sexual harassment to women at the workplace.

Source: Indian Express

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