On October 19, the Supreme Court issued orders for the establishment of internal complaints committees at hospitals, nursing homes, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complex or competition or games venues to ensure that any incidents of sexual harassment at workplace are reported. The said orders were issued by the bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Dipankar Datta in the case of Initiatives for Inclusive Foundation vs Union of India. In the said case, the petitioner had sought appropriate directing from the court, directing the Union government and each State/UT governments to take steps for implementing the provisions of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act).
The division bench, in its judgment, noted the existence of many lacunas as well as a lack of uniformity in the implementation of the POSH Act by various state governments. The bench then dictated a slew of specific direction in the said case with the aim of ensuring greater uniformity in the implementation of the POSH Act and POSH Rules in the country. The directions are as follows:
- The Women and Child Development Ministry of every State/UT, to consider identifying a ‘nodal person’ within the Department, to oversee and aid in coordination as contemplated under the POSH Act
- Principal Secretary of the State/UT, and the Central government, will personally ensure appointment of a district officer in each district within their territorial jurisdiction, as contemplated under Section 5 within four weeks of the judgment
- The appointed district officers shall ensure the contact details of these nodal officers, and Local complaint committees shall be forwarded to the nodal person within the State Government by six weeks from the judgment
- A circular/bulletin containing names of all district officers, and their contact details (phone, address, and email), along with a district wise chart of the various nodal officers and their contact details shall be available online
- District Officers and LCs should be mandatorily trained and be sensitised to the nature of sexual harassment, the gendered interactions that occur in the workspace
- State/UT Governments, and Union Government to set out the financial resources allocated or needed, to develop educational, communication and training material for spreading awareness of the provisions of this Act to the public
- Central government shall ensure that it’s Handbook for implementation of POSH Act is circulated among district and remote level officers
- State/UTs to create a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) including the procedure, and timeline for monitoring implementation and maintaining data
- Hospitals, nursing homes, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complex, or competition or games venues to establish ICs, and report compliance as per the duties under this Act.
The bench directed that all States/Union Territories have to submit a consolidated report of compliance with the Court’s directions to the Central Government within 8 weeks.
The Centre was directed to consolidate the various reports, identify any lapses in the compliance by the State and try to remedy it, before filing a consolidated affidavit of compliance detailing the States’ compliance, and the Union Government’s action taken with regard to the directions, within 12 weeks from the date of the judgment.
The court further stated that the Central government may consider amending the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Rules, 2013 [POSH Rules] so as to identify one department and creating a ‘nodal person’ post within the said department to be responsible for the coordination required in implementing the Act.
The matter will be heard again in February 2024.
The complete order can be read here: