Vishaka & Ors. V State Of Rajasthan & OrsAIR (1997) SC 3011

Vishaka & Ors. V/S State of Rajasthan [1] is a case which deals with evil of sexual harassment at workplace. It is a landmark judgment case by Supreme Court of India in the case of sexual harassment.


Facts

Bhanwari Devi, a lady from Rajasthan, worked under the Women's Development Project run by the government of Rajasthan. She took up an issue against child marriage as part of her job but, the villagers were ignorant and continued supporting child marriage. A family of Ram Karn Gurjar decided to conduct child marriage. Bhanwari attempted to convince the family. However, the family chose to proceed with the wedding.

On 5th May 1992, the sub-divisional and the Deputy Superintendent of Police went to stop the marriage. However, the marriage took place the following day. It was proven by the villagers that the police visited as a result of Bhanwari Devi's actions. This led to spurning Bhanwari Devi and her family, whereby she lost her job. On September 1992, Ramkaran Gujjar along with five men from the above family, attacked Bhanwari Devi’s husband and brutally gang raped her. There was an intentional delay in lodging the complaint and investigation and medical examination, which was adjourned for fifty-two hours only to find that no reference of rape was mentioned in the report. At the police station she was repeatedly taunted by the police constable. In the past midnight she was asked by the policeman to leave her lehenga as evidence of the incident.

As a result she had to use bloodstained dhoti of her husband to wrap her body. The trial court made the discharge of the accused people not guilty. However, the High Court inn his judgment propounded that – it was a case of gang rape that was a result of revengeful intention. A PIL was filed by a women rights organization called 'Vishaka', which focused on the enforcement of fundamental rights under provisions of Articles 14, 15, 19 & 21of the constitution of India.


Issues

▪ Whether the fundamental rights of a woman are compromised due to sexual harassment at the workplace. Formal guidelines required to deal with the incidents of sexual harassment at the workplace

▪ Whether the employer has any responsibility in case of such incidents


Judgement

The Court held that under Articles 14[2], 15, 19 [3](1) (g) and 21[4] of the constitution of India, sexual harassment at the workplace was violative of the fundamental rights. The Court also defined sexual harassment as "sexually determined behaviour (whether directly or indirectly) like physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography, or any other unwelcome physical verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature. The Honorable Court also acknowledged the lack of adequate legislation and loopholes which allowed such heinous crimes to thrive.

The Court also took reference from the international conventions to give a deeper analysis. Article 11(1), (a) and (f) and Article 24 of Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women was cited. The Hon'ble Supreme Court laid down the rules to preclude sexual harassment at the workplace, known as 'Vishaka Guidelines', under Article 141-

▪ An organization must have a redressal committee to address harassment. This should be independent of whether the demonstration establishes an offence under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, or some other laws. A report needs to be sent to the government annually.

▪ There need to be provided healthy work conditions in the matter of hygiene, comfort & health.

▪ For the offences that fall under the domain of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, the employer must report the authority.

These rules laid down the foundation for The Sexual Harassment of Women at the workplace ( Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act, 2013.


References

  1. legal 60. (2021, June). https://legal60.com/case-summary-vishaka-ors-v-state-of-rajasthan-ors-1997/. Retrieved from https://main.sci.gov.in/judgment/judis/13856.pdf.

  2. https://main.sci.gov.in/judgment/judis/13856.pdf

  3. AIR 1997 SC3011

  4. Article 14, Constitution of India, (Right to equality)

  5. Article 19 (1)(G) Constitution of India , (Right to practice one's profession)

  6. Article 21, , Constitution of India, ( right to life)


This article is written by Sankalp Mirani of MNLU Mumbai.

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