//Sexual harassment at workplace

Sexual harassment at workplace

New Delhi: Expressing concern over non-implementation of its judgment relating to sexual harassment at work places, the Supreme Court has directed the Chief Secretaries of all the States to inform within eight weeks whether they have set up committees in all the departments and institutions having over 50 staff members to deal with such complaints.

A Bench of Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice R.V. Raveendran noted that the apex court in 1997 had issued a series of guidelines in the "Vishaka case" on how to deal with the problem of sexual harassment at work places. All the States were parties to those proceedings.

Passing interim orders in the petition filed by Medha Kotwal Lele, it said: "Now it appears that the directions issued were not properly implemented by the various States. The counsel appearing for the various States submit that they would do the needful at the earliest… "

The Bench also pointed out that the number of complaints received and the steps taken in these complaints were not available. "We find that in order to co-ordinate the steps taken in this regard, there should be a State level officer, i.e., either the Secretary of the Woman and Child Welfare Department or any other suitable officer who is in charge and concerned with the welfare of women and children in each State," it said.

The judges said: "The Chief Secretaries of each State shall see that an officer is appointed as a nodal agent to collect the details and to give suitable directions whenever necessary."

It also noted that directions were not fully complied with, in respect of factories, shops and commercial establishments. The Bench, therefore, directed the Labour Commissioner of each State to take steps. It asked the Labour Commissioner to act as nodal agency and collect details regarding the complaints and ensure that the required committees were established in such institutions.