Vaishnavi Annasaheb Nirmal | Manikchand Pahade Law College, Aurangabad | 14th February 2020
Vishaka and others vs. State of Rajasthan and others[(1997) 6 SCC 241]
Fact of case:
Bhanwari Devi who was a social activist/worker in one of the village of Rajasthan. She worked under a social development program at rural level which was about to stop child marriage in a village and this social program was instigated by the State Government of Rajasthan.
Bhanwari Devi tried to stop the marriage of the Ramkaran Gujjars (thakurs) daughter, who was just one year old (she was just an infant). As a part of her duty, Bhanwari Devi tried to terminate that marriage.
Even of her lot of efforts to stop the marriage, it happened, but Bhanwari devi was not excused or pardoned for her act of trying to stop the marriage. She was exposed to or put forward to social punishment or boycott.
September 1992, she was been gang raped by Ramkaran Gujjar and his five friends in front of her husband. The male doctor at normal primary health centre declined to survey her and the doctor at Jaipur only made confirmation of her age without any recommendation of her being raped in her medical report.
At police station too she was been continually taunted by the women countable for the whole of the midnight. In past midnight she was been asked by the policeman to leave her lehnga as the evidence of that incident and go back to her village. After that, she was only left with the bloodstained dhoti of her husband to wrap her body, as a result of which they had to spend there whole night in that police station.
Accused were acquitted by the Trail Court. While the High Court in its judgement propounded that –“it was a case of gang rape which was conducted out of revengeful situation”.
In response to Bhanwari’s story, Vishaka (Group for Women’s Education and Research) joined together with four other women’s organisations to file a petition to the Supreme Court of India on the issue of sexual harassment at the workplace.
Without domestic legislation to adequately address sexual harassment in the workplace, the Court undertook measures to enforce gender equality and non-discrimination in accordance with universal human rights norms and standards. The Hon’ble Supreme Court did come up with such guidelines as ‘Vishakha Guidelines’ which formed the basis of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
In its judgment, the Court provided a set of guidelines for employers – as well as other responsible persons or institutions – to immediately ensure the prevention of sexual harassment. In accordance with Article 141 of India’s Constitution, these guidelines were to be considered law until appropriate legislation was created:
- Duty of the Employer or other responsible persons in work places and other institutions.
- Definition sexual harrasment.
- Preventive Steps.
- Criminal Proceedings.
- Disciplinary Action.
- Complaint Mechanism.
- Complaints Committee.
- Workers’ Initiative.
Through its analysis, the Court concluded that sexual harassment in the workplace is a violation of Women’s human rights. The court decided that the consideration of “International Conventions and norms are significant for the purpose of interpretation of the guarantee of gender equality, right to work with human dignity in Articles 14, 15 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution and the safeguards against sexual harassment implicit therein.”