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SUPREME COURT COMES DOWN ON SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE

Focus: GS-II Social Justice

Why in news?

  • Sexual harassment of women at workplace is an affront to their fundamental right to equality and a life with dignity, the Supreme Court has held in a judgment.
  • Sexual harassment at the workplace is an affront to the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under Articles 14 and 15 and her right to live with dignity under Article 21 of the Constitution as well as her right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
  • Referring to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act of 2013, the Supreme Court said that its very purpose was to provide protection to working women.

Article 14

“The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.”

Article 15

  1. The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them
  2. No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to
    1. access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and palaces of public entertainment; or
    2. the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public
  3. Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children
  4. Nothing in this article or in clause ( 2 ) of Article 29 shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes

Article 21

“No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

Thus Article 21 secures two rights:

  1. Right to life, and
  2. Right to personal liberty.

The Article prohibits the deprivation of the above rights except according to a procedure established by law. Article 21 corresponds to the Magna Carta of 1215, the Fifth Amendment to the American Constitution, Article 40(4) of the Constitution of Eire 1937, and Article XXXI of the Constitution of Japan, 1946.

Article 21 applies to natural persons. The right is available to every person, citizen or alien. Thus, even a foreigner can claim this right. It, however, does not entitle a foreigner the right to reside and settle in India, as mentioned in Article 19 (1) (e).

Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal) Act of 2013

  • The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work.
  • This statute superseded the Vishaka Guidelines for Prevention Of Sexual Harassment (POSH) introduced by the Supreme Court (SC) of India.
  • This Act was essentially derived from the Vishaka Guidelines. The Vishaka Guidelines were certain procedures to be followed in cases of workplace sexual abuse. These guidelines were formulated after the landmark case Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan.
  • The Act defines sexual harassment at the work place and creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints. It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.
  • The Act also covers concepts of ‘quid pro quo harassment’ and ‘hostile work environment’ as forms of sexual harassment if it occurs in connection with an act or behaviour of sexual harassment.
  • The definition of “aggrieved woman”, who will get protection under the Act is extremely wide to cover all women, irrespective of her age or employment status, whether in the organised or unorganised sectors, public or private and covers clients, customers and domestic workers as well.



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July 2022
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