Landmark Judgements related to Prevention Of Sexual Harassment (PoSH)

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The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013, commonly known as the PoSH Act, is a legislation in India that aims to protect women from sexual harassment at the workplace. The Act was passed by the Indian Parliament in 2013, following the landmark judgment in the Vishaka and Others v. State of Rajasthan case, which established guidelines for the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace.

The PoSH Act applies to all workplaces, including government offices, private companies, and non-profit organizations, and covers all women, regardless of their employment status. The Act defines sexual harassment as any unwelcome physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature that creates a hostile or intimidating work environment for the victim.

Under the PoSH Act, employers are required to establish an internal complaint committee to handle complaints of sexual harassment, and to adopt a code of conduct that prohibits such harassment. The Act also provides for the establishment of local complaint committees at the district level to address complaints from women who work in the informal sector.

The PoSH Act provides for a range of measures to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace, including the dissemination of information on the Act, the provision of sensitivity training to employees, and the creation of a safe and secure working environment for women. The Act also provides for penalties for employers who fail to comply with its provisions, including fines and imprisonment. In this article we will study landmark judgement that lead to enablement of PoSH Act of 2013.

1. Vishaka and others v. State of Rajasthan(Bhanwari Devi Case)

Bhanwari Devi Vishakha Guidelines

Vishaka and Others v. State of Rajasthan, also known as the Bhanwari Devi case, was a landmark judgment by the Supreme Court of India in 1997 that established guidelines for the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace. The case arose from a complaint by a group of women’s rights organizations, including the Vishaka Association, after a social worker named Bhanwari Devi was gang-raped in 1992 while trying to prevent a child marriage in Rajasthan.

The Supreme Court held that sexual harassment at the workplace violates the rights of women guaranteed under the Indian Constitution and international conventions. The Court further held that the state has a duty to prevent such harassment and to provide effective remedies to victims.

To that end, the Court issued guidelines for the prevention of sexual harassment at the workplace, which include the creation of complaint committees at the district and state levels, the adoption of a code of conduct for employers, and the training of employees on the issue of sexual harassment.

The Bhanwari Devi case had a significant impact on women’s rights in India, as it recognized sexual harassment as a form of gender-based violence and established legal remedies for its prevention and redress. The case remains an important precedent in the fight against sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence in India and around the world.

2. Medha Kotwal Lele & Ors. V. Union of India & Ors.

Medha Kotwal Lele & Ors. v. Union of India & Ors. is a case that was decided by the Supreme Court of India in 2018. The case arose from a petition filed by a group of women’s rights activists, including Medha Kotwal Lele, challenging the constitutionality of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 (PoSH Act).

The petitioners argued that the PoSH Act was insufficient to protect women from sexual harassment at the workplace, and that it failed to provide adequate remedies to victims of such harassment. They argued that the Act did not adequately address issues such as the role of third parties in facilitating sexual harassment, the need for protection against online harassment, and the need for gender-sensitive training for members of internal complaint committees.

The Supreme Court rejected the petitioners’ arguments, holding that the PoSH Act was constitutional and that it provided sufficient protections to women against sexual harassment at the workplace. The Court further held that the Act was in line with India’s international obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The Medha Kotwal Lele case is significant because it reaffirmed the importance of the PoSH Act in protecting women from sexual harassment at the workplace and provided guidance on the Act’s application in practice. The case remains an important precedent in the fight against sexual harassment and other forms of gender-based violence in India.

3. Tuka Ram And Anr vs State of Maharashtra, AIR 1979 SC 185 (Mathura Case)

Mathura Case Watershed moment

Tuka Ram And Anr v. State of Maharashtra, also known as the Mathura case, was a criminal case that was decided by the Supreme Court of India in 1979. The case arose from an incident that occurred in 1972, in which a young woman named Mathura was allegedly raped by two police officers at a police station in Maharashtra.

Mathura’s family filed a complaint against the police officers, who were charged with rape and other offenses. The trial court acquitted the officers, stating that Mathura had consented to sexual intercourse with them. Mathura’s family appealed the decision to the High Court, which also upheld the acquittal.

The case was then appealed to the Supreme Court, which ruled in favor of Mathura and ordered the police officers to be retried. The Court held that the evidence in the case indicated that Mathura had not consented to sexual intercourse with the police officers, and that the trial court had erred in finding otherwise.

The Mathura case is significant because it established the principle that a woman’s consent to sexual intercourse must be obtained through clear and voluntary communication, and that the absence of physical resistance does not necessarily indicate consent. The case remains an important precedent in the fight against sexual violence and other forms of gender-based violence in India.

4. State of Maharashtra vs. Madhukar Narayan Mardikar, AIR 1991 SC 207

State of Maharashtra v. Madhukar Narayan Mardikar, also known as the Mardikar case, was a criminal case that was decided by the Supreme Court of India in 1991. The case arose from a complaint by a woman named Manorama, who alleged that she had been raped by Madhukar Narayan Mardikar, a police inspector, while in police custody.

Mardikar was charged with rape and other offenses. The trial court convicted him and sentenced him to life imprisonment. Mardikar appealed the conviction to the High Court, which upheld the sentence. Mardikar then appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court upheld Mardikar’s conviction and sentence, stating that the evidence in the case established that he had raped Manorama while she was in police custody. The Court further held that the fact that the rape occurred in a police station made it a particularly heinous crime, as it undermined the trust that the public places in the police.

The Mardikar case is significant because it established the principle that the police have a duty to protect the rights of individuals in their custody, and that they are liable for any violations of those rights. The case remains an important precedent in the fight against sexual violence and other forms of abuse of power in India.

5. Independent Thought vs. Union of India and Anr.

Independent Thought v. Union of India and Anr. is a case that was decided by the Supreme Court of India in 2017. The case arose from a petition filed by a non-profit organization called Independent Thought, which challenged the constitutionality of an exception to the Indian Penal Code that allows a husband to have sexual intercourse with his wife if she is between the ages of 15 and 18.

Independent Thought argued that the exception violated the rights of young girls to equal protection under the law, as it allowed for the sexual exploitation of minors. The organization argued that the exception was discriminatory and violated international conventions on the rights of the child.

The Supreme Court agreed with Independent Thought and struck down the exception, holding that it was in violation of the rights of young girls to protection from sexual exploitation and abuse. The Court stated that the exception was “arbitrary, capricious, whimsical and violative of the rights of the girl child.”

The Independent Thought case is significant because it established that the rights of children, including the right to protection from sexual exploitation and abuse, must be given priority over cultural and traditional practices. The case remains an important precedent in the fight against child marriage and other forms of gender-based violence in India.

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