The Centre today informed the Supreme Court that besides the government sector, it has urged leading business associations like ASSOCHAM and FICCI to ensure effective implementation of the law on prevention of sexual harassment at workplace among their entities. It said that all the states and union territories have been asked to organise workshops and awareness programmes regarding the law in each and every industry, business house and private sector under their jurisdiction. The top court asked all the states to file their reply on a plea for protection of women from sexual harassment at workplace, cases of which an NGO claimed were on the rise. A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud said that states should file their reply in two weeks while the petitioner NGO should file the suggestions, if any, for ensuring compliance of the Sexual Harassment At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition) Act. The Centre in its affidavit told the court that on June 2, 2017, the ministry issued advisories to all the states/UT governments for effective implementation of the Act, advising them to organise workshops and awareness programmes in the departments/offices for sensitising the employees about the provision of the said Act.
“Secretary industries/commerce of the states/UTs have also been advised to organise workshops and awareness programmes in each and every industry, business house, private sector,” it said. The Centre further said that request was made to leading business organisations like ASSOCHAM, FICCI and Confederation of Indian Society, Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCI) and NASSCOM to ensure effective implementation of the Act among their private sector entities. “An online complaint management system titled the sexual harassment electronic-box (SHe-Box) has been developed for registering complaints related to sexual harassment at workplace.
“SHe-Box is an effort of government of India to provide a single window access to every woman, irrespective of her work status, whether working in organised or unorganised, private or public sector, to facilitate the registration of complaint related to sexual harassment,” it said. Elaborating, the Centre said that once a complaint is submitted to the ‘SHe-Box’, it will be directly sent to the authority concerned having jurisdiction to take action into the matter. On January 4, the top court sought response from the Centre and state governments on the plea which sought immediate and proper implementation of the provisions of the Sexual Harassment At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition) Act and for setting up redressal mechanism.
Delhi-based NGO Initiatives for Inclusion Foundation (IIF) filed the PIL through advocate Esha Shekhar in which it said that even the local district officers and complaints committees were not being appointed and the victims did not have an appropriate forum to file complaints even as such cases were on the rise. “It will not be possible to effectively implement the provisions of the Act unless district officers are notified in all the districts of the states and UTs and local complaints committees are constituted,” the PIL said. It sought a direction to the state governments to give full support to district officers, ensure collection of annual compliance reports from all organisations.
It alleged that various RTIs filed by the NGO shows that a very little progress has been made by the states to implement the Act. “The data collected nationwide presents a picture of apathy and inaction in implementation of an Act which was originally brought in to eradicate sexual harassment from workplace and subsequently to create an enabling, safe and secure working environment for women. “There is practically no avenue, both in organised and unorganised sector, for women who experience sexual harassment at workplace to lodge their complaints and seek redressal,” it said.