Expanding the ambit of its 1997 Vishaka verdict, the Supreme Court on Friday directed all regulatory bodies like BCI and MCI, which regulate different professions, to set up a committee to deal with all cases of sexual harassment at the workplace.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice R M Lodha directed regulating bodies and all the institutions affiliated to them to implement the guidelines framed in the Vishaka case within two months. The bench passed the order on a PIL filed by Medha Kalwal Lele seeking its direction to expand the ambit of the 1997 verdict to include various other institutions.
The apex court in 1997 had framed guidelines to handle cases of sexual harassment at the workplace in government departments and PSUs. According to the guidelines, it was the duty of the employer or other responsible persons in work places and other institutions to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment and to provide procedures for resolution, settlement or prosecution of acts, of sexual harassment by taking all steps required. The guidelines also said that rules prohibiting sexual harassment at the workplace should be notified, published and circulated and should also provide for penalties against the offenders.
Even private employers were asked to include the express prohibition of sexual harassment in their standing orders. The guidelines also said that the victims or witnesses are not victimised or discriminated against while dealing with complaints of sexual harassment.
The guidelines recommended setting up of a Complaint Committee, to be headed by a woman and half of its members should comprise of women, to deal with sexual harassment cases. It also recommended that the committee should involve a third party, either NGO or other body who is familiar with the issue of sexual harassment, in order to prevent possibility of any undue pressure or influence from senior levels.