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Protection Of Women From Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act, 2013

Protection Of Women From Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act, 2013:

A petition has been filed in the Supreme Court challenging guidelines issued by the Bombay High Court in cases under the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment (POSH) Act, 2013.

  • The provision that challenged pertains to blanket bar on parties and advocates from sharing records, including orders and judgments, with the media.
  • The guidelines were formed by Justice G.S. Patel of the Bombay High Court ostensibly to protect the identities of the parties in a case under the POSH Act.
  • The petitioner argued that a blanket bar is against the freedom of speech and expression enshrined under Article 19.
  • The petition said a well-informed citizenry governs itself better.
  • Right to free speech can be curbed only if it interferes with the administration of justice.
  • Any injunction on the right of the people to know true and accurate facts is an encroachment on their right to information.
  • It can serve as a tool for powerful men to continue sexually harassing women and thereafter suppressing their voices on social media and in the news media.
  • In matters of social justice and women empowerment, public discourse plays a crucial role in shaping the nature of legal entitlements that are delivered to women.
  • The order may have a “ripple effect” and deter survivors from approaching courts as well as setting a dangerous precedent for trial cases.
  • The legitimise undue protection to sexual offenders in gross violation of principles of open court and fundamental rights of survivors.
  • An open court serves an educational purpose.
  • The court becomes a platform for citizens to know how the practical application of the law impacts upon their rights.

Protection of Women Against Sexual Harassment Act, 2013:

  • The Supreme Court in a landmark judgement in the Vishakha and others v State of Rajasthan 1997 case gave ‘Vishakha guidelines’.
  • These guidelines formed the basis for the The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (“Sexual Harassment Act”).
  • The Act defines sexual harassment at the workplace and creates a mechanism for redressal of complaints.
  • Every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee at each office or branch with 10 or more employees.
  • The Complaints Committees have the powers of civil courts for gathering evidence.
  • The Complaints Committees are required to provide for conciliation before initiating an inquiry if requested by the complainant.
  • Penalties have been prescribed for employers. Non-compliance with the provisions of the Act shall be punishable with a fine.
  • Repeated violations may lead to higher penalties and cancellation of license or registration to conduct business.
  • The State Government will notify the District Officer in every district, who will constitute a Local Complaints Committee (LCC) so as to enable women in the unorganised sector or small establishments to work in an environment free of sexual harassment.

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