The Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment Act (POSH Act) and Landmark Judgments Ensuring Constitutional Protection

Introduction

POSH ACT
IMAGE SOURCES: PIXABAY

 

Sexual harassment at the workplace is a grave violation of a person’s dignity and fundamental rights. Recognizing the need to address this issue and provide a safe and inclusive working environment for women, the Indian government enacted the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment Act, commonly known as the POSH Act, in 2013[1]. This blog explores the key provisions of the Act, its constitutionality, and landmark judgments that have shaped its interpretation and implementation.

 

Understanding the POSH Act

 

The POSH Act aims to prevent and address sexual harassment in the workplace by establishing a legal framework that promotes a safe and dignified environment for women. It defines sexual harassment broadly, encompassing various unwelcome acts or behavior of a sexual nature that create an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment.

Constitutionality of the POSH Act

 

The constitutionality of the POSH Act has been upheld by various courts, including the Supreme Court of India. The Act is considered constitutional as it aligns with the fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution, such as the right to equality (Article 14)[2], the right to life and personal liberty (Article 21)[3], and the right to work with dignity (Article 19)[4].

 

The Act promotes gender equality by providing a specific legal framework to address the unique challenges faced by women in the workplace. It recognizes their right to work in an environment free from harassment and ensures that employers take proactive steps to prevent and redress instances of sexual harassment.

 

Landmark Judgments Upholding the POSH Act

 

  1. Vishaka and Others v. State of Rajasthan (1997)[5]:

In this landmark case, the Supreme Court of India recognized sexual harassment as a violation of fundamental rights. The court issued guidelines, commonly known as the Vishaka Guidelines, to fill the legislative vacuum until the enactment of the POSH Act. These guidelines laid down the principles and procedures to be followed in cases of sexual harassment, emphasizing the duty of employers to provide a safe working environment.

 

  1. Apparel Export Promotion Council v. A.K. Chopra (1999)[6]:

The Supreme Court, in this case, held that employers have a responsibility to prevent sexual harassment and are vicariously liable for acts of harassment committed by their employees. The judgment emphasized the need for employers to implement preventive measures, sensitization programs, and strict action against offenders.

 

  1. Medha Kotwal Lele v. Union of India (2013)[7]:

 

This case highlighted the importance of strict compliance with the POSH Act. The Supreme Court stated that the Act’s provisions were not mere formalities but legal obligations that must be followed by employers. It emphasized the need for effective implementation and action against those found guilty of sexual harassment.

 

  1. Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and Its Role:

 

The POSH Act mandates the establishment of an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) in every organization employing ten or more employees. The ICC plays a crucial role in ensuring the Act’s effective implementation. It comprises internal members and external members, at least one of whom should be a woman. The ICC is responsible for receiving complaints, conducting inquiries, and recommending appropriate actions.

The ICC’s constitutionality has been upheld by the courts as it ensures an impartial and unbiased mechanism for addressing sexual harassment cases. The committee provides a safe and confidential space for complainants to report incidents without fear of victimization.

The ICC’s role includes conducting inquiries in a timely manner, ensuring the principles of natural justice, maintaining confidentiality, and recommending suitable actions against the offender. The Act also emphasizes the importance of sensitizing ICCmembers through training programs to enhance their understanding of sexual harassment issues and their effective handling.

 

Conclusion

 

The Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment Act (POSH Act) is a landmark legislation that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace. The Act’s constitutionality has been upheld by the courts, as it aligns with the fundamental rights enshrined in the Indian Constitution. Landmark judgments, such as Vishaka, have played a crucial role in shaping the interpretation and implementation of the Act, emphasizing the duty of employers to prevent sexual harassment and providing a legal framework for victims to seek redress.

The Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) plays a vital role in implementing the Act effectively. It ensures a fair and impartial mechanism for addressing complaints, providing a safe space for victims to come forward and seek justice.

While the POSH Act is a significant step towards creating safer work environments, its successful implementation requires proactive efforts from employers, sensitization programs, and a culture that promotes gender equality and respect. By upholding the constitutionality of the POSH Act and landmark judgments, India has taken a significant stride in empowering women and fostering inclusive workplaces free from sexual harassment.

 

[1] https://blog.ipleaders.in/posh-act-2013/

[2] https://blog.ipleaders.in/article-14/

[3] https://www.careerlauncher.com/upsc/article-21/

[4] https://byjus.com/free-ias-prep/right-to-freedom-articles-19-22/#:~:text=Article%2019,-Article%2019%20guarantees&text=They%20are%3A,to%20every%20person%20of%20India.

[5] https://blog.ipleaders.in/case-analysis-vishaka-ors-v-state-of-rajasthan-ors-1997-6-scc-241-landmark-case-on-sexual-harassment/

[6] https://www.juscorpus.com/apparel-export-promotion-council-v-a-k-chopra/

[7] https://www.lawgicstratum.com/post/medha-kotwal-lele-vs-union-of-india

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