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Redressal) ACT 2013.





I would like to sincerely thank our Mr. Arvind Nath Tripati for giving me this opportunity to
take up this project regarding Vishakha and others v State Rajasthan Case. The Sexual
Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.. I have
my level best to collect various data and information about the topic in order to provide a clear
picture regarding the same.


1. Abstract
2. Research Methodology
3. Introduction
4. Background
5. Vishakha Case
6. Vishakha Guidelines
7. Cases on sexual harassment
8. Conclusion
9. Bibliography

Sexual Harassment affects all women in some form or the other. Lewd remarks, touching, wolfwhistles, looks are part of any womans life, so much so that it is dismissed as normal. Working

women are no exception. In fact, working women most commonly face the backlash to women
taking new roles, which belong to male domains within patriarchy. Sexual Harassment at work is
an extension of violence in everyday life and is discriminatory, exploitative, thriving in
atmosphere of threat, terror and reprisal.
Sexual harassment is all about expression of male power over women that sustain patriarchal
relations. It is used to remind women of their vulnerability and subjugated status. In a society
where violence against women, both subtle and direct, is borne out of the patriarchal values
operating in society, force womens conformity to gendered roles. These patriarchal values and
attitudes of both men and women pose the greatest challenge in resolution and prevention of
sexual harassment.
Studies find that sexual harassment is still endemic, often hidden, and present in all kinds of
organizations. Yet it is still not always viewed as a problem, which has to be systematically
tackled. The issue is of concern for both women and the employers as studies show that sexual
harassment touches lives of nearly 40-60% of working women.
Thus, combating sexual harassment involves developing understanding of what is sexual
harassment and change of attitudes in all- be it employees, colleagues, friends, administrators,
employers or the law makers.
This project will look into how the sexual harassment at workplace bill came into existence in
india. Also, This project will look into the before and after-math of the Vishakha case and how
the vishakha guidelines came about.

Research Methodology

The topic Sexual harassment at workplace is a very vast topic and spans a wide area where we
have limited our scope to analyzing the existing laws and amendments that govern harassment at
workplace. The research methodology used here is doctrinal research.

Aim of Study
In this study the aim of the researcher is to understand the laws governing sexual harassment in
India and how relief can be achieved by an wronged person on this front.

Benefit of study
By conducting a study on sexual harassment in workplace the researcher gets a broader
prospective on the topic and also an understanding on how the laws have developed over the
years regarding this issue. Another major issue which has been addressed in this paper is the
misuse of certain laws by the citizens of our country for their personal benefit.


Of all the forms that violence against women can assume, sexual harassment is the most
ubiquitous and insidious; all the more so because it is deemed 'normal' behaviour and not an
assault on the female entity. It affects women in all settings whether public or private and has
psychological, medical, social, political, legal and economic implications. Instances of sexual
harassment should not be viewed as isolated incidents; rather they should be construed as a
gendered aggression against the rights and dignity of women. The fact the extremely harmful
effects of Sexual Harassment are visible globally discounts any effort to view it with less
gravity than it deserves. 1
In India, it has been only six years since sexual harassment was for the first time recognised by
The Supreme Court as human rights violation and gender based systemic discrimination that
affects womens Right to Life and Livelihood. The Court defined sexual harassment very clearly
as well as provided guidelines for employers to redress and prevent sexual harassment at
workplace. While the Apex Court has given mandatory guidelines, known as Vishaka Guidelines,
for resolution and prevention of sexual harassment enjoining employers by holding them
responsible for providing safe work environment for women, the issue still remains under carpets
for most women and employers. Vishaka guidelines apply to both organized and unorganized
work sectors and to all women whether working part time, on contract or in voluntary/honorary
capacity. The guidelines are a broad framework which put a lot of emphasis on prevention and
within which all appropriate preventive measures can be adapted. One very important preventive
measure is to adopt a sexual harassment policy, which expressly prohibits sexual harassment at
work place and provides effective grievance procedure, which has provisions clearly laid down
for prevention and for training the personnel at all levels of employment.
As Indias economy continues to grow, helping millions of people live better and healthier lives,
one could be forgiven for thinking that the old problems that affected our parents and
grandparents generations are being left behind. You would expect to find this to be especially
true in the modern and dynamic workplaces of call centers and IT parks that are employing
millions and helping drive Indian economic growth. Unfortunately, while we have new industries
and economic progress, old problems have yet to be left behind.
Sexual harassment has been found to be rife within Indias modern work places. A study released

last year, of 600 female employees working in IT and BPO industries and the first of its kind,
found that 88% of women were subject to sexual harassment in their workplace, with supervisors
often in over 70% of cases being to blame. In an international survey of over 12,000 people in
24 countries, India was found to have the highest rate of reports of workers being sexually
harassed by colleagues or supervisors. 25% also reported being assaulted at their place of work.
Despite both national and international efforts to eliminate sexual harassment, there is no single
definition of what constitutes prohibited behavior. Generally, international instruments define
sexual harassment broadly as a form of violence against women and as discriminatory treatment,
while national laws focus more closely on the illegal conduct. All definitions, however, are in
agreement that the prohibited behavior is unwanted and causes harm to the victim. At the
International level, the United Nations General Recommendation 19 to the Convention on the
Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women defines sexual harassment as
Such unwelcome sexually determined behavior as physical contact and advances, sexually
colored remarks, showing pornography and sexual demands, whether by words or actions. Such
conduct can be humiliating and may constitute a health and safety problem; it is discriminatory
when the woman has reasonable ground to believe that her objection would disadvantage her in
connection with her employment, including recruitment or promotion, or when it creates a
hostile working environment.2
The International Labor Organization (ILO) is a specialized United Nations agency that has
addressed sexual harassment as a prohibited form of sex discrimination under the Discrimination
(Employment and Occupation) Convention (No. C111). The ILO has made clear that sexual
harassment is more than a problem of safety and health, and unacceptable working conditions,
but is also a form of violence (primarily against women).
Sexual harassment occurs in the workplace due to unwelcome, unwanted, uninvited, action or
behavior of a person that causes discomfort, humiliation, offence or distress to the other.


Majority of such cases are directed towards woman by men working at high position in an
Sexual harassment at a workplace is unwelcome behavior as it affects not only the terms
conditions of employment but also have huge bearing on the working environment of an
organization. Therefore this problem has to be understood looking at its causes and possible
remedies for its effective control.
In India, sexual harassment is termed as 'eve teasing' and is described as: unwelcome sexual
gesture or behavior whether directly or indirectly such as sexually colored remarks; physical
contact and advances; showing pornography; a demand or request for sexual favors; any other
unwelcome physical, verbal, non-verbal conduct being sexual in nature, passing sexually
offensive comments or any other such behavior.
Sexual harassment includes a long list of things. It is necessary to put them here in some detail in
order to caution those who may indulge in such activity. Its actual or attempted rape or sexual
assault, unwanted pressure for sexual favors, unwanted deliberate touching, leaning over,
cornering, or pinching, unwanted sexual looks or gestures, unwanted letters, telephone calls, or
materials of a sexual nature, unwanted sexual teasing, jokes, remarks, or questions.
It also includes referring to an adult, as a girl, doll, babe, or honey, whistling seeing a lady, cat
calls, sexual comments, turning work discussions to sexual topics, sexual innuendos or stories,
asking about sexual fantasies, preferences, or history. Sexual comments on a lady's clothing,
anatomy, or looks. Spreading rumors about personal life of a woman.
There are many causes of sexual harassment but most important one is the culture and values
system and the relative power and status of the men and women in our society.
Other causes for the rise in sexual harassment in workplace. The way in which men and women
are brought up in India strongly influences their behavior in an organization. Women often lack
self confidence because of the way they have been socialized and are customized to suffer in


Whereas men are brought up with macho beliefs, who consider females a mere toy to play with
and easily carry these values into the workplace. Such patriarchal viewpoints create a atmosphere
that allows men the freedom of sexual harassment in the workplace, while women remain
Women are vulnerable to sexual harassment because they more often lack power and often work
in an insecure positions. Due to the fear factor women often resign to their fate rather than raise
their voice against sexual harassment. Since they do not know where to go for complain and how
their complain would be treated, they often keep quit and suffer in ignominy.
Some times sexual harassment is also seen as a power game, where man insists on sexual favors
in exchange of benefits he can dispense with due to his prevailed position. The 'casting couch' is
probably the best-known example of such power game.
As recent economic and social changes have changed power relations between men and women
in the Indian society, men are feeling a sense of insecurity. With women now being empowered,
some men feel threatened by their career advancement. To overcome such insecure feelings,
some men resort to harassing women in the work place.
Sometimes men are stressed in the work place because even after putting their best, they do not
get proper recognition, where as women with little talent are preferred for being fair sex in an
organization. This sometimes causes frustration and such men resort to sexual harassment to
overcome their stress.
Its not only men who are to be blamed all the time, some women think that the real women have
to look sexy. They see sexuality as their only power base to play along. Such attitude of women
sometimes invites sexual advances by men at the work place and then become a case of sexual
One of the major reason that sexual harassment goes on unabated because the organization in
order to safeguard its image do not entertain complaint and disciplinary procedures to deal with
sexual harassment.5


Background On the origin of the bill

The Supreme Court Guidelines evoked in the Case of Vishaka and others V. State of Rajasthan
and others owing to the gang rape of Bhanwari Devi by a group of Thakurs as she attempted to
stop a child marriage in their family.

Bhanwari Devi was a social worker (saathin) at rural level in a development programme
initiated by State Government of Rajasthan, aiming to curb the evil of child marriages in
As part of her work, Bhanwari Devi, tried to stop Ramkaran Gujjars infant daughters marriage.
Nevertheless, marriage took place but Bhanwari Devi was not forgiven for her efforts to stop
marriage. She was subjected to social boycott, and in September 1992 was gang raped by five
men including Ramkaran Gujjar in front of her husband. The days that followed were filled with
hostility and humiliation for Bhanwari and her husband. The only male doctor in the Primary
Health Centre refused to examine Bhanwari and the doctor at Jaipur only confirmed her age
without making any reference to rape in his medical report. At the police station too, the women
constables taunted her throughout the night. It was past midnight when the policemen asked
Bhanwari to leave her lehenga behind as evidence and return to her village. She was left with
only her husbands bloodstained dhoti to wear. Their pleas to let them sleep in the police station
at night, were turned down.6

The trial court acquitted the accused, but Bhanwari was determined to fight further and get
justice. She said that she had nothing to be ashamed of and that the men should be ashamed due

to what they had done. Her fighting spirit inspired fellow saathins and womens groups
countrywide. In the months that followed they launched a concerted campaign for justice for
Bhanwari. On December 1993, the High Court said, it is a case of gang-rape which was
committed out of vengeance.

This provoked womens groups and NGOs to file a petition in the Supreme Court of India. As
part of this campaign, the groups had filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India, under the
name Vishaka, asking the court to give certain directions regarding the sexual harassment that
women face at the workplace.
The result is the Supreme Court judgments, which came on 13th August 1997, and gave the
Vishaka guidelines


Vishakha Case
According to the Indian constitution, sexual harassment infringes the fundamental right of a
woman to gender equality under Article 14 and her right to life and live with dignity under
Article 21.7
Although there is no specific law against sexual harassment at workplace in India, many
provisions in other legislations provide some protection against sexual harassment at workplace,
such as Indian Penal Code (IPC) Section 354 which deals with "assault or criminal force to a
woman with the intent to outrage her modesty, and Section 509, IPC deals with "word, gesture or
act intended to insult the modesty of a woman
In 1997, the Supreme Court of India in a Public Interest Litigation, defined sexual harassment at
workplace, preventive measures and redress mechanism. The judgement is popularly known
as Vishaka Judgement.
As Zia Mody says in her book, Ten Judgements that Changed India, "Judicial activism reached
its pinnacle in Vishakha Vs. State of Rajasthan." The judgment was unprecedented for several
reasons: the Supreme Court acknowledged and relied to a great extent on international treaties
that had not been transformed into municipal law; the Supreme Court provided the first
authoritative decision of 'sexual harassment' in India; and confronted with a statutory vacuum, it
went creative and proposed the route of 'judicial legislation'.8

8 10 judgments that changed India, Modi Zia.

The Vishakha judgment was an offshoot of a rape case involving a social worker in Rajasthan. It
laid down the requirements for employers dealing with complaints of sexual assault and
stipulated the formation of committees to dispose of complaints from victims of harassment.9
Some general points about the judgement:
Below are some of the general points of the Vishakha judgment:

Gender equality includes protection from sexual harassment and the right to work with

dignity as per our constitution.

Extra hazard for a working woman compared her male colleague is clear violation of the

fundamental rights of Gender Equality & Right to Life and Liberty.

Safe working environment is fundamental right of a working woman. In no way should
working women be discriminated at the workplace against male employees. (If a woman
is, then it must be documented in company policies, for example limitation of women in

police and armed forces.)

Working with full dignity is the fundamental right of working women. The right to work
as an inalienable right of all working women.

The Vishakha judgment had recommended a Complaints Committee at all workplaces, headed by
a woman employee, with not less than half of its members being women. All complaints of
sexual harassment by any woman employee would be directed to this committee. This is
significant because an immediate supervisor may also be the perpetrator. The committee advises
the victim on further course of action and recommends to the management the course of action
against the man accused of harassment.
How the Vishakha judgment defines sexual harassment at the workplace.
Anything at work that can place the working woman at disadvantage compared to other male
employees in her official career just because she is a woman can be termed as sexual


Unwelcome sexually determined behavior & demands from males employees at workplace, such
as: any physical contacts and advances, sexually colored remarks, showing
pornography, passing lewd comments or gestures, sexual demands by any means, any
rumors/talk at workplace with sexually colored remarks about a working woman, or spreading
rumors about a womans sexual relationship with anybody.10

Preventive Steps
All employers or persons in charge of work place whether in public or private sector should take
appropriate steps to prevent sexual harassment. Without prejudice to the generality of this
obligation they should take the following steps:
a) Express prohibition of sexual harassment as defined above at the work place should be
notified, published and circulated in appropriate ways.
(b) The Rules/Regulations of Government and Public Sector bodies relating to conduct and
discipline should include rules/regulations prohibiting sexual harassment and provide for
appropriate penalties in such rules against the offender.
(c) As regards private employers, steps should be taken to include the aforesaid prohibitions in
the standing orders under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
(d) Appropriate work conditions should be provided in respect of work, leisure, health and
hygiene to further ensure that there is no hostile environment towards women at work places and
no employee woman should have reasonable grounds to believe that she is disadvantaged in
connection with her employment. 11

Criminal Proceedings
Where such conduct amounts to a specific offence under the Indian Penal Code or under any
other law, the employer shall initiate appropriate action in accordance with law by making a
complaint with the appropriate authority. In particular, it should ensure that victims, or witnesses
are not victimized or discriminated against while dealing with complaints of sexual harassment.
The victims of sexual harassment should have the option to seek transfer of the perpetrator or
their own transfer.12

Disciplinary Action
Where such conduct amounts to misconduct in employment as defined by the relevant service
rules, appropriate disciplinary action should be initiated by the employer in accordance with
those rules.

Complaint Mechanism
Whether or not such conduct constitutes an offence under law or a breach of the service rules, an
appropriate complaint mechanism should be created in the employers organisation for redress of
the complaint made by the victim. Such complaint mechanism should ensure time bound
treatment of complaints. 13

Complaints Committee
The complaint mechanism, referred to in (6) above, should be adequate to provide, where
necessary, a Complaints Committee, a special counsellor or other support service, including the
maintenance of confidentiality. The Complaints Committee should be headed by a woman and
not less than half of its member should be women. Further, to prevent the possibility of any

undue pressure or influence from senior levels, such Complaints Committee should involve a
third party, either NGO or other body who is familiar with the issue of sexual harassment. The
Complaints Committee must make an annual report to the Government department concerned of
the complaints and action taken by them. he employers and person in charge will also report on
the compliance with the aforesaid guidelines including on the reports of the Complaints
Committee to the Government department.

Workers Initiative
Employees should be allowed to raise issues of sexual harassment at a workers meeting and in
other appropriate forum and it should be affirmatively discussed in EmployerEmployee

Awareness of the rights of female employees in this regard should be created in particular by
prominently notifying the guidelines (and appropriate legislation when enacted on the subject) in
a suitable manner.

Third Party Harassment

Where sexual harassment occurs as a result of an act or omission by any third party or outsider,
the employer and person in charge will take all steps necessary and reasonable to assist the
affected person in terms of support and preventive action.

The Central/State Governments are requested to consider adopting suitable measures

including legislation to ensure that the guidelines laid down by this order are also

observed by the employers in Private Sector.

These guidelines will not prejudice any rights available under the Protection of Human
Rights Act, 1993. *** Other legal provisions include filing a criminal case under
sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Indecent Representation of Women


(Prohibition) Act and/or filing a civil suit. The sections of the Indian Penal Code that
can be applicable to sexual harassment (which makes it a criminal case):14

Section 294
Whoever, to the annoyance of others, (a) does any obscene act in any public place, or (b) sings,
recites and utters any obscene songs, ballads or words, in or near any public space, shall be
punished with imprisonment of either description for a term that may extend to three months, or
with fine, or with both. This provision is included in Chapter XVI entitled Of Offences
Affecting Public Health, Safety, Convenience and Morals and is cognisable, bailable and triable
by any magistrate. 15

Section 354
Whoever assaults or uses criminal force on any woman, intending to outrage her modesty or
knowing it likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment
for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine, or with both.

Section 509
(Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman) This is included in Chapter 22
entitled Of Criminal Intimidation, Insult and Annoyance, and is cognisable, bailable and triable
by any magistrate. It holds: Whoever, intending to insult the modesty of woman, utters any
word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object, intending that such word or sound
shall be heard, or that such gesture is seen by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such
woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or
with fine, or with both. Under the Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1987)

if an individual harasses another with books, photographs, paintings, films, pamphlets, packages,
etc. containing the indecent representation of women, they are liable for a minimum sentence
of 2 years. Section 7 (Offenses by Companies) further holds companies where there has been
indecent representation of women (such as the display of pornography) on the premises, guilty
of offenses under this act, with a minimum sentence of 2 years.

Civil case
A civil suit can be filed for damages under tort laws. That is, the basis for filing the case would
be mental anguish, physical harassment, loss of income and employment caused by the sexual

Cases on sexual harassment at workplace

1. Rupan Deol Bajaj vs KPS Gill Case

Mr. Gill, who was then DGP, Punjab, had misbehaved with Mrs. Bajaj at a party in the house of
the then Financial Commissioner and Secretary to the Government of Punjab.
Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P.P. Naoelekar, who delivered the judgment, ordered Mr.
Gill to give the compensation amount to a women's organisation as Mrs. Bajaj had said that she
did not want to take the money.
Mrs. Bajaj filed a First Information Report (FIR) on July 29, 1988, and her husband filed a
complaint before the Chief Judicial Magistrate (CJM) of Chandigarh in November 1988. Mr. Gill
then filed a criminal revision petition in the High Court in 1989, which quashed both the FIR and
the complaint before the CJM. Mrs. Bajaj and her husband, in a Special Leave Petition before
the Supreme Court, challenged the High Court's decision in 1995.

The Supreme Court set aside the High Court order and sent the complaint case back to the trial
court with directions to take cognisance of the offences under Sections 354 (outraging the
modesty of a woman) and Section 509 (insulting the modesty of a woman) of the Indian Penal
Code (IPC).
In August 1996, the CJM sentenced Mr. Gill to three months' imprisonment and a fine of Rs.
500. Mr. Gill appealed before the Sessions Judge, Chandigarh.
The Sessions Judge upheld the conviction and ordered him to pay Rs. 2 lakhs as compensation to
Mrs. Bajaj and Rs. 50,000 as costs of which Rs. 25,000 had to be paid to Mrs. Bajaj. Mr. Gill
was put on a three-year probation period.
He then appealed before the High Court, which, in 1998, upheld the Sessions Court order but

reduced the probation period to one year.

Organisational culture plays a pivotal role when the various risk factors and causes of sexual
harassment are examined. Sexual harassment can be seen as a form of 'organisational violation'
whereby the culture of an organisation makes it possible for individual employees to be treated
abusively or with disrespect. It is more prevalent in certain work situations and when uncivil
behaviour is apparent, can lead to an incivility spiral whereby such behaviour becomes routine
and is regarded as the norm. Individual and situational factors can also combine to increase the
likelihood of repeated sexual harassment incidents.
People have different perceptions of what constitutes sexual harassment but behaviour is more
likely to be seen as harassment if there is a power difference between the person being harassed
and the harasser. Women are sometimes reluctant to label their own experiences as sexual
harassment because they do not think they are serious enough; this obviously has implications
for research which seeks to clarify the prevalence of the problem. But sexual harassment does
have a negative impact both in the short and long term. Effects can include: illness, humiliation,

anger, loss of self confidence, decreased job performance and satisfaction, and psychological
distress; while the employing organisation can experience: diminished business performance,
damage to its reputation, lower morale and higher staff turnover.18
Ways of dealing with and reacting to sexual harassment differ widely and there is no single
agreed method. Those thought to be most effective include confronting and negotiating with the
harasser e.g. asking/telling them to stop, and advocacy seeking e.g. reporting the behaviour to a
supervisor or outside agency. However, such actions can be very difficult to take, particularly
when the person doing the harassing is a manager, as is often the case. One way of combating
many of the problems is to provide employees with an informal, as well as a formal, route to
follow when making a complaint about harassment. The difficulties of coping with harassment
both on an individual and at an organisational level reinforce the need for effective preventative
There are three types of intervention that organisations are recommended to implement to reduce
and eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace: prevention of harassment through training
plus effective policies and procedures; responding to harassment through an effective complaints
procedure; and following up by addressing rehabilitation of the person who has been harassed
and their harasser. Research suggests that these will be most effective where an organisation
adopts a consultative and participatory approach at all stages, combined with effective
monitoring and evaluation. The sexual harassment intervention model illustrated in Chapter 5
(Figure 5.3) advocates a proactive i.e. preventative rather than a reactive i.e. response driven
strategy to sexual harassment policies and procedures.