Upset over delay in framing a new law for protection of women against sexual harassment at workplaces,the Supreme Court Friday directed all states and Union Territories to amend their service rules within two months and have sufficient number of complaint committees to deal with the complaints as per its 1997 Vishaka judgment.
The court underlined that the guidelines laid down in the Vishaka judgment still hold good since the legislature had failed to draft a law to protect women,who still struggled to have their most basic rights protected at workplaces.
The Supreme Court in its landmark judgment in Visakhas case had not only recognised sexual harassment at workplace under the Indian jurisprudence as a crucial problem faced by women workers but also set out detailed guidelines for its prevention and redressal.
We are of the considered view that the existing laws,if necessary,be revised and appropriate new laws be enacted by Parliament and the state legislatures to protect women from any form of indecency,indignity and disrespect at all places; in their homes as well as outside,prevent all forms of violence,sexual assault and harassment at the workplace,etc, said a Bench led by Justice R M Lodha.
The Bench said it was the States responsibility to provide new initiatives for education and advancement of women and girls in all spheres of life. Lip service,hollow statements and inert and inadequate laws with sloppy enforcement are not enough for true and genuine uplift of our half most precious population the women, noted the Bench.
Disposing of a bunch of petitions that cited lack of implementation of the Vishaka judgment,the court also directed the Bar Council of India,Medical Council of India,Council of Architecture,Institute of Chartered Accountants,Institute of Company Secretaries and other such statutory institutes to ensure they and their affiliated bodies strictly follow the guidelines.
The court said the belief of the Constitution-framers in fairness and justice for women was yet to be fully achieved at the workplaces. It also pointed at the meager representation by women in Parliament and assemblies while saying that the statistics dented the Constitution-framers belief.
While we have marched forward substantially in bringing gender parity in local self-governments,the representation of women in Parliament and the assemblies is dismal as women represent only 10-11 per cent of the total seats, it said,while citing UN Gender Equality Index where India ranked 129 out of 147 countries.