August 19, 2022

Case Comment: Vishaka and Others. Vs. State of Rajasthan,(1997) 6 SCC 241


Petitioner: Vishaka & Ors.

Respondent: State of Rajasthan & Ors.

Date of Judgement: 13/08/1997

Bench: J. S. Verma (then C.J.I)., Sujata Manohar and B. N. Kirpal

Introduction

In, a country like India where women are worshipped as various goddesses but many at times they have to face or come across the instances of sexual abuse but today the situation is not the same. Thus, today women being self-dependent and though holding good positions face sexual harassment, inequality in the workplace. Not only this, the problem of Sexual Harassment at the workplace has always been one of the main areas of the women’s movement for a long time. It is a well-known fact that women’s respect and her safety & security are most essential for the entire country but this entire scenario completely shattered after the dark incident which took place in the year 1992 and popularly known as- Vishaka Case. After which the Supreme Court gave Vishaka guidelines to curb Sexual Harassment of women in the workplace.

Facts of the case

  • Travelling back in time since the year 1985 when a  women named as Bhanwari Devi, who had been employed as a village-level social worker also known as- Saathin under the Women’s Development Project (WDP) being run by the Government of Rajasthan was bruetly raped in the year 1992.
  • As it was the part of Devi’s job, she used to directly work with the families to prevent the marriages and also report cases to the police to where it was urgent.
  • With all this, in one particular case it happened that Devi reported a family which belonged to the Gurjar Community to the police because of the arranged marriage of one year old infant.
  • Therefore in order to revenge back for the same act done by Devi, the family had rebelled against her and , around five men of the Gujjar community raped her while she was at her workplace.
  • Despite the bad behavior of the police and the authorities, she was insistent on to fight for Justice so she lodged a complaint against the accused. However, in the absence of sufficient evidence the court was acquitted the accused in the Trail Court.
  • Various social organizations and women activists also raised their voices for Devi’s fight for Justice. Therefore, a Public Interest Litigation was filled by the women’s right activists for the need to protect women from sexual harassment at the workplace.

Issues before the Court

The Supreme Court had inspected the case which highlighted the problem of Gender Inequality, outraging the modesty of women, sexual harassment at the workplace, and rape as societal issues of substantial intensity. Thus, violence against women was taken as a red alert, and to curb sexual violence against women the judgment given by them became as guidelines.

Decision of the Court

Right to life not only gives to live life with dignity. but at first responsibility for guaranteeing such is “safety” and dignity through appropriate legislation, and therefore the creation of a mechanism for its social control, is of the general assembly and therefore the executive…” Therefore it was concluded by Supreme Court that sexual abuse at the workplace is a violation of a women’s human right, highlighting the article 14, 15, 19(1), and 21 of Indian Constitution.

Guidelines set by the Court

  • Sexual Harassment consists of unwelcomed sexually determined behavior as physical sexual contact, sexual favor, sexual remarks, pornographic content and also verbal or Non-verbal conduct of sexual nature
  • Sexual Harassment at workplace should be always –informed, produced & circulated
  • Whenever a sexual harassment takes place which amounts to a specific offence under law, the employer should take action by complaining about the same to the appropriate authority.
  • An appropriate mechanism of prevention should be created for redressed of the complaint.

SEXUAL HARASSMENT AT WORKPLACE (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION, AND REDRESSAL ) ACT, 2013

It took the government seventeen years to pass the law against harassment within the geographical point earlier this year, within the wake of the Delhi gang-rape last Dec, once the Supreme Court had in 1997 set down the Vishaka Guidelines on the matter. The Act includes several provisions of the Vishakha Guidelines, that 1st required the formulation of “a PROPER CODE OF CONDUCT for the workplace”, building on the Vishaka guidelines, the Act to imply the formation of an interior complaints committee and an area complaints committee at the district level. The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 seeks to guard women against harassment at their place of work in a wider sense. The Bill was 1st introduced by the Women and Child Development Minister.

Critical Analysis

In the case of Vishaka & others v/s the state of Rajasthan, the Supreme Court had specifically mentioned the definition of Sexual Harassment, which conveys any unwanted or uninvited physical touch or conduct or showing of pornography or any definable sexual comments or texts will come under the ambit of Sexual Harassment. According to any such conduct done directly hampers the right of women to life and it also affects their dignity to live. It also hinders the mental and physical health of women. Sexual harassment shall be avoided and the equality between the genders should be established in the workplace.
The Supreme Court held out guidelines that, the person-in-charge of the particular institution, organization, or office whether be it private or public, will be responsible for taking effective steps to prevent sexual harassment. Penalties shall be charged from the accused people for conducting sexual harassment. It had become a very crucial topic to act upon for the prevention of sexual harassment of women at the workplace. In the case of private companies, the strict rules regarding the punishment of sexual harassment shall be included. In case the sexual harassment is conducted by the outsiders, the person-in-charge of that institution need to take strict action for the conduct of such crime.

Conclusion

Sexual Harassment of women at the workplace happens at a very high-frequency rate in India. If any strict action will not be taken towards this crime, it will directly hamper the working ratio of the women in India and on another hand it will hamper the economic situation of India. Government need to make strict laws regarding the aversion of sexual harassment at workplace, because it should realize that, women also consist of the working population of our country. It should be abolished to prevent the dignity and the respect of the women. Various new approaches and skills shall be implemented by the institutions, organizations to prevent there women employees from such a social evil. The main focus behind the motive of this right is to promote gender equality at workplace without any kind of discrimination and among the workers of an organization.