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The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013

This Act came into force just to make sure a safe and comfortable environment for the women at the workplace. In the era of modernisation women still have to face harassment at the workplace. For a proper work environment and to have work satisfaction without any problem, some rules were made under this Act.

By: Ankita Nandi is a 3rd year B.A.LL.B student at Kingston Law College

The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, came into force after the observation of the Supreme Court, in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1). This case was a Writ Petition to enforce fundamental rights. It was held that Sexual Harassment at work place violates Article 14 (2), Article15 (3), Article19(1) (g) (4), and Article 21 (5) of our Constitution. At that time, no such Act was made to protect the women rights so some guidelines were issued. The guidelines were known as the Vishaka Guidelines, which in a way increased a sense of security in the minds of working women that there honour and dignity will be safe in their place of work. It was made mandatory for all the employers of a workplace to follow the guideline. In pursuance of the guidelines in 2013, the Sexual Harassment Act came into commission.

Sexual Harassment includes unwelcome acts or behaviour (directly or implication) those are physical contact, demand or request for sexual favour making sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature. (6)

Prevention of Sexual Harassment at workplace

It is said that no women employee at a work place shall be subjected to sexual harassment and actions that includes – 

  • Implied or overt promise of preferential treatment in employment
  • Implied or overt threat of detrimental treatment in employment
  • Implied or overt threat about the present or future employment status, 
  • Conduct which interferes with work or creates an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment, 
  • Humiliating conduct consulting health and safety problems. (7)

India had already signed and ratified Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), but didn’t have a domestic law to support it. So, this Act was also an attempt to fulfil the international obligation.

India had already signed and ratified Convention on Elimination of All forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), but didn’t have a domestic law to support it. So, this Act was also an attempt to fulfil the international obligation. In the world full of women empowerment there are some places that restricts a woman to grow. To prohibit the sexual harassment at the workplace, this act was enacted. The Act ensures that these are followed in private as well as in public places, it covers schools and colleges, and the transportation taken and places visited by employee during course of employment. The Act also provided for Redressal mechanism. The Redressal shall range from simply apologizing, to withholding promotions, increment and can even stretch to termination. 

This Act provides for the constitution of an Internal Complaints Committee (8), wherever there are more than 10 employees. This helps the worker to file a complaint immediately after any such instant takes place. The committee must consist of 2 members who have experience in working for causes relating to women, 1 member from an NGO, and half of the committee must have female members in it. The complaint must be filed within 3 months of the commission of the incident and it should be in writing. The whole inquiry must be completed in 90 days after the institution of the complaint. The Delhi High Court in the judgement of Ruchika Singh Chhabra v. M/s Air France India and anr. “Directed that the ICC should be constituted in strict compliance with the requirement under law”. (9)

It must be ensured that the identity of the aggrieved party, respondent, witnesses, reason of the complaint, inquiry and everything is not disclosed. (10) Under the legal system, an individual making a sexual harassment claim under civil law is required to prove that the sexual behavior occurred and that is constituted sex determination, a violation of dignity or a health and safety hazard. The respondent often has no burden of proving the charges, the burden of proof is imposed on the plaintiff. 

Under the legal system, an individual making a sexual harassment claim under civil law is required to prove that the sexual behavior occurred and that is constituted sex determination, a violation of dignity or a health and safety hazard. The respondent often has no burden of proving the charges, the burden of proof is imposed on the plaintiff. 

Major Concerns of the Act

  • Creation of Internal Complaints Committee
  • Sensitization of employees
  • Capacity building
  • Statuary compliance
  • Gender equality at workplace
  • Get rid of hostile environment at work place
  • To protect fundamental rights under Article 14, 15, 19(1)(g) and 21
  • For inclusive growth and social development.

The concept of this article does not give an exhaustive picture of provisions of the Act and Rules and are just a broad overview of the Act, and Rules. The provisions contain several loopholes which can be exploited by the harasser in his favor. Clearly the provisions need more comprehensive to provide a means of justice to those who have been victims and a means of protection for those who could be potential victims. The Act, which should have been highly victim friendly, poses problem for the victim at each and every step. Law should be representative of the societal changes, especially in areas such as Sexual violence and exploitation. The Government needs to take some measures to make the Act more effective in the society.

(1) (1997) 6 SCC 241
(2) Equality Before the Law
(3) Prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of sex, color, birth place etc.
(4) To practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
(5) Protection of life and personal liberty
(6) Section 2 (n) of the Act
(7) Section 3(2) of the Act
(8) Section 4 of the Act
(9) 2018 SCC Online Del 9340
(10) Section 16 of the Act


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