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Vishaka case 1997

Vishaka and Ors vs State of Rajasthan and Ors - Citation: - (1997)6 SCC 241, AIR 1997, SC.3011 - Bench/ Coram:J.S Verma C.J.I, Mrs. Sujata ,V. Manohar and B.N Kirpal J.J - Date of Judgment: - 13-08-1997
'The empowered woman is powerful beyond measure and beautiful beyond description.' -Steve Maraboli

Introduction:-
The women of today being self-dependent and though holding good positions face harassment, inequality, and biasness at workplace. Sexual offence is a serious offence which has destroyed the reputation of many a public figure. Sexual harassment at workplace has always been one of the most extreme subject of the women's movement from long time. The safety of women is the most essential for the entire country but the scenario was completely destroyed after the incident which took place in the year 1992 and popularly known as- The Vishaka Case. After this the supreme court laid down guidelines for sexual harassment of women at workplace.

Facts of The Case:-
·It all started since the year 1985 when Bhanwari Devi, was employed as a social worker (saathin) under a Women's development Project initiated by the State government of Rajasthan, aiming to wipe out the social evil of child marriages in villages.

·As a part of her work, she used to work with the families to prevent marriages and also reported cases to the police to when urgent follow up actions was needed.

·In one particular case she tried to stop Ramkaran Gujjar's infant daughter's marriage although the marriage took place.

·Therefore to get revenge for the act done the family rebelled against her and also subjected her to social boycott.

·In September 1992, to ostracize her from the community she was gang raped by five men – Ram Sukh gujar, Gyarsa gujjar, Badri Gukkar, Sharavan Sharma including Ramkaran Gujjar in front of her husband while she was at her workplace.

·They went to the police station for help but no thorough investigation was launched and it was past midnight when the policemen asked Bhanwari to leave her lehenga behind as evidence and return to village. Their pleas to sleep in the police station were also rejected.

·The male doctor in the primary health care in Jaipur refused to examine her and only recorded her age- leaving out any reference to rape in his report. 52 hours passed before a medical examination was conducted.
·Despite preferential and the derogatory behavior shown by the police and also doctors, she was insistent on the fight for justice so she lodged a complaint against the accused. However, in the absence of sufficient evidence the court had acquitted in the Trail court.

·This provoked women's groups and NGO – VISHAKA (Group for Women's education and research) joined together with four other women's organizations to file a petition to the Supreme Court of India on the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace.
·The result is the Supreme court Judgment, which came on 13thAugust 1997 , and gave the Vishaka guidelines.

Sections And Articles:-
The matter was purported basically to the violation of Human rights specifically:-
Ø Constitution of India
1. Article 14: Equality before the law
2. Article 15: Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion,race,caste, and birth.
3. Article 19(1)(g) : Right to practice one's profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.
4. Article 21 : Right to life and personal liberty

Issues Raised:-
The Supreme Court had inspected the case which highlighted the problem of Gender inequality, outraging the modesty of women, sexual harassment at the workplace and rape as societal issue of utmost intensity.
Ø Whether employer has any responsibility for sexual harassmentbyits employees.
Ø Whether employer has any responsibility for sexual harassmenttoits employees.

Bench's Verdict:-
The court examined the case through the scenario of gender equality, taking into effect the sexual harassment of women at workplace as a "social problem of considerable magnitude" and discriminatory form of violence against women (VAW). "Gender equality…" the Court noted, "…includes the Right to life with dignity and the responsibility for guaranteeing such safety and dignity through appropriate legislation."The court also referred to the violation of article 14, 19(1)(g),21 and article 15 of the constitution of India.

The court also referred to the Convention on the elimination of All forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW), which laid down the guidelines that prohibits discrimination in the work nature and outlines that are being specified for state obligations to end it:-
Article 11(1)(a, f):The right to work and the right to protection of health and to safety in working conditions, including the safeguarding of the function of reproduction
Article 24: States parties undertake to adopt all necessary measures at the national level aimed at achieving the full realization of the rights recognized in the present Convention
Recommendation for 19:-to eliminate the violence and discrimination against women.
The court also undertook measures to enforce gender equality and non-discrimination with universal human rights norms.

Vishaka Guidelines (1997):-
The court laid down certain guidelines with definition of human rights in section 2(d) of the Protection of Human rights Act 1993. These guidelines were to be considered law until appropriate legislation was created in accordance with article 141.
Ø Duty of the employer or other persons in work places and other institutions.
Ø The employer in work places and other institutions are responsible to prevent or deter the commission of acts of sexual harassment.
Ø Complaint mechanism: An appropriate mechanism of prevention should be created for redressel of the complaint.
Ø Disciplinary action: The employer should take action by complaining about the same to the authority responsible when sexual harassment takes place.
Ø No prejudice of any rights available under the protection of Human rights act, 1993.
Ø Workers Initiative: Employees should be allowed to raise issues of sexual harassment at workers meeting.
Ø Awareness: Awareness of the rights of female employees in this regard should be created by notifying the guidelines.

Analysis And Comments:-
The Judgment of the Supreme Court in the Vishaka case laid down a strong impact on the safety of women at workplace and certain guidelines to protect them.
The judicial activism has reached its peak in the landmark case of Vishaka vs. State of Rajasthan. In the democratic country like India that the rights of both male and female members of the society are protected. It is a very harsh reality that women across India face exploitation and violence but a few has a power to resist it and face it because of lack of family support, social customs and social stigma and the low education level and mentality.

The legislature has change its attitude to deal with such cases treating such issues regarding safety and dignity of women lightly. The 2012 Nirbhaya Gang rape case has been great example for public support and for enacting measures against culprits indulging in sexually predatory behavior.

The case gave guidelines in the year 1997 but has sadly failed in last 20 years for the final implementation of Prevention of women from Sexual harassment at workplace Bill. It took government 17 years to pass any law against harassment and The Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013 which seeks to guard women from harassment at their place of work in an exceedingly abundant wider sense. The bill received the assent of the President of India on April 2013 and finally came into force in Dec 2013.
"While a murder destroys the physical frame of the victim, a rapist degrades and defies the soul of helpless women." Justice Arijit Pasayat

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