A bench of Chief Justice Dipak Misra and justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud directed the Centre to file its response by April 19 on the plea filed by Delhi-based NGO Initiatives for Inclusion Foundation (IIF) seeking protection of women from sexual harassment at workplaces, cases of which the NGO claimed were on the rise.
The NGO, in its plea filed through advocate Esha Shekhar, had sought immediate and proper implementation of the provisions of Sexual Harassment At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition) Act and said local district officers and complaints committees were not being appointed and the victims did not have an appropriate forum to file complaints.
"It will not be possible to effectively implement the provisions of the Act unless district officers are notified in all the districts of the states and UTs and local complaints committees are constituted," the PIL said.
It sought a direction to the state governments to give full support to district officers and ensure collection of annual compliance reports from all organisations.
It alleged that various RTI enquiries filed by the NGO show that very little progress has been made by the states to implement the Act.
"The data collected nationwide presents a picture of apathy and inaction in implementation of an Act which was originally brought in to eradicate sexual harassment from workplaces and subsequently to create an enabling, safe and secure working environment for women.
"There is practically no avenue, both in organised and unorganised sector, for women who experience sexual harassment at workplaces to lodge their complaints and seek redressal," it said.
The Centre had on February 9 informed the Supreme Court that besides the government sector, it has urged leading business associations like the ASSOCHAM and the FICCI to ensure effective implementation of the law on prevention of sexual harassment at workplaces among their entities.
It had said all the states and union territories have been asked to organise workshops and awareness programmes regarding the law in each and every industry, business house and private sector under their jurisdiction.
The top court had asked all states to file their reply on the plea while the petitioner NGO was asked to file the suggestions, if any, for ensuring compliance of the Act.
The Centre, in its affidavit, had told the court that on June 2, 2017, the ministry had issued advisories to all the states/UT governments for effective implementation of the Act, advising them to organise workshops and awareness programmes in the departments/offices for sensitising the employees about the provision of the said Act.
It had informed the court that an online complaint management system titled the Sexual Harassment Electronic-Box (SHe-Box) was developed for registering complaints related to sexual harassment at workplaces.
"SHe-Box is an effort of the government of India to provide a single window access to every woman, irrespective of her work status, whether working in organised or unorganised, private or public sector, to facilitate the registration of complaints related to sexual harassment," it said.
Elaborating, the Centre said that once a complaint is submitted to the 'SHe-Box', it would be directly sent to the authority concerned having jurisdiction to take action into the matter.
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