SC condemns red tape in sexual harassment cases
- Recently, the Supreme Court (SC) condemned red tape in sexual harassment cases.
- SC held, the right against sexual harassment at the workplace is part of the fundamental right to a dignified life (Article 21) and it takes a lot of courage for a subordinate to overcome the fear to speak up against a lewd superior.
- Hence, Courts and Government officials should try not to make the process a punishment for victims.
Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act 2013
Highlights of the Bill:
- The Bill defines sexual harassment at the workplace and creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints.
- It also provides safeguards against false or malicious charges.
- Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee at each office or branch with 10 or more employees.
- The District Officer is required to constitute a Local Complaints Committee at each district, and if required at the block level.
- The Complaints Committees have the powers of civil courts for gathering evidence.
- The Complaints Committees are required to provide for conciliation before initiating an inquiry if requested by the complainant.
- Penalties have been prescribed for employers.
- Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine of up to Rs 50,000. * Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.
Laws and Measures taken in India
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
- Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
- Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
- Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
- Prohibition of Child Marriage Act, 2006
- Nirbhaya Fund for projects for the safety and security of women
- One-Stop Centre Scheme to provide integrated support and assistance to women affected by violence, both in private and public spaces under one roof the Scheme of ‘Universalisation of Women Helpline’ and the Scheme of ‘Mahila Police Volunteers’
- Online analytic tool for police called “Investigation Tracking System for Sexual Offences” to monitor and track time-bound investigation in sexual assault cases in accordance with Criminal Law (Amendment) Act 2018.
- National Database on Sexual Offenders (NDSO) to facilitate investigation and tracking of sexual offenders across the country by law enforcement agencies
- In order to coordinate various initiatives for women safety, MHA has set up a Women Safety Division.
- MHA has issued advisories to all State Governments/UTs, advising them to ensure a thorough investigation, conducting of medical examination of rape victims without delay and for increasing gender sensitivity in Police.
- The Criminal Law (Amendment), Act 2013 was enacted for effective legal deterrence against sexual offences.
- Further, ‘The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2018’ has also been enacted making the punishment for offences like rape more stringent by including the death penalty for rape of a girl below the age of 12 years.
- The Act also mandates the completion of investigation and trials within 2 months each.
- Emergency Response Support System (ERSS), which provides a single emergency number (112) based computer-aided dispatch of field resources to the location of distress has been operationalized in 20 States/ UTs in 2018-19.
- A cyber-crime portal has been launched for citizens to report obscene content.
- Cyber Crime Forensic Labs have been set up in several States, and training of over 3,664 personnel, including 410 Public Prosecutors and Judicial Officers in identifying, detecting and resolving cyber-crimes against women and children has been imparted.
- In order to improve investigation, steps have been taken to strengthen DNA analysis units in Central and State Forensic Science Laboratories.
- This includes the setting up of a State-of-the-Art DNA Analysis Unit in Central Forensic Science Laboratory, Chandigarh.
- Setting up and upgrading of DNA Analysis units in State Forensic Science Laboratories in 13 States/UTs have also been sanctioned under Nirbhaya Fund.
- Guidelines have been notified for the collection of forensic evidence in sexual assault."