In an important decision, a large Bench of the Supreme Court of India has issued further necessary directions until legislative enactment (The Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment at Work Place Bill, 2010 is still pending in Parliament) on the subject of sexual harassment is in place: –
(i) The States and Union Territories which have not yet carried out adequate and appropriate amendments in their respective Civil Services Conduct Rules (By whatever name these Rules are called) shall do so within two months from today by providing that the report of the Complaints Committee shall be deemed to be an inquiry report in a disciplinary action under such Civil Services Conduct Rules. In other words, the disciplinary authority shall treat the report/findings etc. of the Complaints Committee as the findings in a disciplinary inquiry against the delinquent employee and shall act on such report accordingly. The findings and the report of the Complaints Committee shall not be treated as a mere preliminary investigation or inquiry leading to a disciplinary action but shall be treated as a finding/report in an inquiry into the misconduct of the delinquent.
(ii) The States and Union Territories which have not carried out amendments in the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Rules shall now carry out amendments on the same lines, as noted above in clause (i) within two months.
(iii) The States and Union Territories shall form adequate number of Complaints Committees so as to ensure that they function at taluka level, district level and state level. Those States and/or Union Territories which have formed only one Committee for the entire State shall now form adequate number of Complaints Committees within two months from today. Each of such Complaints Committees shall be headed by a woman and as far as possible in such Committees an independent member shall be associated.
(iv) The State functionaries and private and public sector undertakings/organisations/bodies/institutions etc. shall put in place sufficient mechanism to ensure full implementation of the Vishaka guidelines and further provide that if the alleged harasser is found guilty, the complainant – victim is not forced to work with/under such harasser and where appropriate and possible the alleged harasser should be transferred. Further provision should be made that harassment and intimidation of witnesses and the complainants shall be met with severe disciplinary action.
(v) The Bar Council of India shall ensure that all bar associations in the country and persons registered with the State Bar Councils follow the Vishaka guidelines. Similarly, Medical Council of India, Council of Architecture, Institute of Chartered Accountants, Institute of Company Secretaries and other statutory Institutes shall ensure that the organisations, bodies, associations, institutions and persons registered/affiliated with them follow the guidelines laid down by Vishaka. To achieve this, necessary instructions/circulars shall be issued by all the statutory bodies such as Bar Council of India, Medical Council of India, Council of Architecture, Institute of Company Secretaries within two months from today. On receipt of any complaint of sexual harassment at any of the places referred to above the same shall be dealt with by the statutory bodies in accordance with the Vishaka guidelines and the guidelines in the present order.
The Court has earlier issued comprehensive guidelines on this subject in 1997 in Vishaka and Others v. State of Rajasthan and Others.