Supreme Court Identifies Gap in Implementation of Sexual Harassment Laws at Small Workplaces

The Supreme Court of India has identified a significant gap in the implementation of laws against sexual harassment in workplaces, particularly at small establishments and domestic work settings. The Sexual Harassment of Women At Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013, commonly known as the POSH Act, requires States to appoint a district officer in every district to play a crucial role in implementing the Act.

Key Findings and Actions Taken

  • Sections 5 and 6 of the 2013 POSH Act mandate that District Officers should establish Local Complaints Committees (LCCs) to receive complaints from women employed in small establishments with less than 10 workers or in cases where the perpetrator is the employer. District Officers are also responsible for appointing nodal officers under the Act in rural, tribal, and urban areas.
  • The Supreme Court found that many States had not notified District Officers, rendering the law ineffective in those areas.
  • The court emphasized that the District Officer plays a pivotal role in coordinating and ensuring accountability under the POSH Act.
  • Several States only appointed District Officers after being alerted by the Supreme Court’s examination of the issue.
  • The court expressed concern that even in States where action had been taken, District Officers were merely notified without providing specific details about their roles and contact information.
  • The failure to notify District Officers had a cascading impact on the appointment of LCCs and nodal officers, hindering the redressal framework for sexual harassment complaints.

Court’s Ruling

  • The Supreme Court declared that it is insufficient to have the POSH Act on the books; an effective framework for redressal must exist.
  • The court stressed that a functional mechanism for addressing workplace sexual harassment is essential, and the failure to appoint or notify District Officers severely undermines the Act’s enforcement.
  • The court ordered the Principal Secretaries of the Ministry of Women and Child in States to personally ensure the appointment of a District Officer in each district within their territorial jurisdiction within four weeks from the date of the judgment.



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