Vishaka – The Hero

Vishaka & Others V/S State of Rajasthan (AIR 1997 SC 3011)

Sexual Harassment Landmark Case 

Bench of Judges – The Judgement of Vishaka’s case was conveyed by Chief Justice JS Verma as a representative of Chief Justice of India Sujata V. Manohar & Justice B.N.Kirpal.

Precedent

A precedent is a statement of law found in the decision of a superior court and which is to be followed by all the courts inferior to that court. Precedents are of great importance in any system of law. As observed by Salmond, “A precedent is not merely evidence of law, but a source of law.” Article 141 of the Indian Constitution lays down that the law declared by the supreme court of India shall be binding on all courts in India. Precedents are of four kinds, viz. Authoritative, Persuasive, Original & Declaratory.

Vishaka & Others V/S State of Rajasthan & Others is a case involving matter of public importance and is discussed with particular reference to the guide lines laid down by apex court. This case was decided by the Supreme Court and is a precedent for the inferior courts.

Case Summary

Vishaka & others V/S State of Rajasthan is a case which deals with the evil of Sexual Harassment of a women at her workplace. It is a landmark judgement case in the history of sexual harassment. It was decided by the Supreme Court of India. Sexual harassment means an unwelcome sexual favor or sexual gesture from one gender towards the other. It brings humiliation and insult and does offend to whom it is been done.

Sexual Harassment in India is also termed as Eve teasing. And it can be determined from the following acts of passing of typical or indicative comments, uninvited touching, making appeals of sex, discredit person because of sex, sexually blunt pictures or text images.

Facts of the Case

  • This case goes back to the year 1985 when a woman named Bhanwari Devi from Bhateri, Rajasthan, was employed as a village level social worker also known as ‘Saathin’ under the women’s development project (WDP), which was run by the government of Rajasthan was badly raped in the year 1992.
  • As it was part of Devi’s job, she used to work with the families to prevent the child marriages and in case of urgency report cases to the police station.
  • With all this, in a particular case Devi tried to stop the marriage of Ramkaran Gujjar’s (Thakur) daughter. His daughter was merely less than 1 year old.
  • As part of Devi’s duty she tried her best to terminate the marriage of the infant.
  • Even after her efforts to stop the marriage she could not stop it from happening.
  • Bhanwari Devi was not excused for this act and was exposed to a social punishment and boycotted. Devi was forced to leave her job.  In September 1992, she was gang-raped by Ramkaran Gujjar and his five friends while working in their field in front of her husband.
  • She was not properly surveyed by the doctors and at police station to she was taunted by the women constables for the incident. She was being asked by the policeman to leave her lahenga as the evidence and go back to her village. After which Devi was left only with the blood stain dhoti of her husband to wrap her body because of which they had to spend the whole night in the police station.
  • The trial court discharged the case by declaring the accused were not guilty.
  • The high court in its Judgement propounded that it was a gang-rape case conducted out of revenge.
  • All these statements and judgements aroused women & NGO’s to file petition in Supreme Court of India. Various women groups led by Naina Kapur and her organization ‘Sakshi filed public interest litigation (PIL) against the state of Rajasthan and the central government of India to enforce the fundamental rights of working women under Articles 14,19 & 21 of the Indian Constitution.’

Issue of the Case

The Supreme Court of India inspected the case and highlighted the following problems of,

  1. Gender Inequality
  2. Outraging the modesty of women
  3. Sexual harassment at work place
  4. Rape as societal issues of substantial intensity

Judgement

  1. The court observed that the fundamental rights under Articles 14(2), 15, 19(3)[1](9) & 21(4) of the Constitution of India were infringed.
  2. The Supreme Court held that women have fundamental right towards the freedom of sexual harassment at work place.
  3. It also put forward important guidelines to be followed by employees to avoid such evil issues.
  4. The court suggested proper techniques for the implementation in cases were sexual harassment at workplace occurred.
  5. The main aim of the Supreme Court was to ensure no discrimination towards women at their workplace.
  6. Supreme Court has also put forward Vishaka Guidelines to be followed at working grounds.
  7. After this case Supreme Court made the term Sexual harassment well defined.

Critical Analysis

  1. Article 14: Equality before law.

All men and women are equal in the eyes of law irrespective of cast, color, sex, creed, etc.

  1. Article 15: Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.
  2. Article 19(1)(g): Right to practice one’s profession, or to carry any occupation, trade or business.

Every person irrespective of male or female, he/she has every right to practice occupation or business of his or her own choice with reasonable restrictions.

  1. Article 21: Right to life is personal liberty.

Sexual Harassment at workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, Redressal Act,2013)

It took the Government of India 17 years to pass the law against Sexual harassment. After the case of Delhi gang-rape in 2012 the Supreme Court had to enforce the act including Vishaka Guidelines which was set down in 1997.

The Act included several provisions of the Vishaka Guidelines and firstly required the formulation of “a code of conduct for workplace.” The act imply the formation of an interior complaints committee and an area complaints committee at the district level.

The sexual harassment at workplace act, 2013 seeks to guard and protect women from evil issues of harassment at their places of work in an exceeding abundant wider sense.

Guidelines & Responsibilities

  1. Duty and Responsibility of employer and other persons in workplaces and other institutions.
  2. Definition

Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexually determined behavior (whether directly or by implication) as:

a. Physical contact and advances

b. A demand or request for sexual favors

c. Sexually colored remarks

d. Showing pornography

e. Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature

  1. Prevention & Strict action against harassment by third party.
  2. Strict & Appropriate Disciplinary action should be initiated against misconduct by the employer.
  3. Employees should be given chance and allowed to raise issues regarding sexual harassment at work meetings and other forums.
  4. A proper complaint mechanism should be created in the employer’s organization.
  5. Awareness of the rights of female employees should be created by notifying the guidelines in suitable manner.
  6. If misconduct amounts to any offense under the Indian Penal Cod or any other law, it is the duty of the employer to take appropriate action in accordance with law and to make complain with the appropriate authority.

Conclusion 

“A woman is like a tea bag. You can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.”

Sexual harassment of women specially at workplaces happens at a very frequent rate in our country.

If proper action is not taken it could directly hamper the working ratio of women in India and will also effect the economic conditions. Government of India need to make strict laws and take appropriate action regarding this social evil. Sexual harassment should be abolished to prevent the dignity, modesty & respect of a woman. Various new approaches and scales should be adopted and implemented by the Institutions and organizations to prevent women employees from adverse situations of Sexual harassment. The man objective behind the stabilization of this act is to promote gender equality at working grounds without any discrimination or partiality among the workers. In a country like India where at one hand women are treated and worshipped as goddess and on the other hand are brutally harassed, raped, molested it feels very disheartening & unsafe.

Aishwarya Says:

I have always been against Glorifying Over Work and therefore, in the year 2021, I have decided to launch this campaign “Balancing Life”and talk about this wrong practice, that we have been following since last few years. I will be talking to and interviewing around 1 lakh people in the coming 2021 and publish their interview regarding their opinion on glamourising Over Work.

If you are interested in participating in the same, do let me know.

Do follow me on FacebookTwitter  Youtube and Instagram.

The copyright of this Article belongs exclusively to Ms. Aishwarya Sandeep. Reproduction of the same, without permission will amount to Copyright Infringement. Appropriate Legal Action under the Indian Laws will be taken.

If you would also like to contribute to my website, then do share your articles or poems at adv.aishwaryasandeep@gmail.com

We also have a Facebook Group Restarter Moms for Mothers or Women who would like to rejoin their careers post a career break or women who are enterpreneurs.

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