It has taken over 15 years for the Supreme Court to fully implement its own order on setting up of committees at all workplaces to deal with complaints of sexual harassment of women.
Acting on petitions filed by advocates Binu Tamta and Vibha Datt Makhija, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India Altmas Kabir on March 21 expanded the scope of the complaints committee set up under its 1997 Vishaka Guidelines to enable it entertain grievances of women lawyers.
Several female advocates of the Supreme Court had complained that there was no mechanism to address complaints of sexual harassment of women lawyers in the court premises as the existing committee set up under Vishaka Guidelines were dealing with only the complaints received from women employees.
“We are of the view that the Complaint Committee of the Supreme Court, as existing, should be more broad-based, so that the grievances of the learned (lady) advocates, who, though, not employees of the Supreme Court, but are a major part of the workforce, can also be addressed,” the bench, also comprising justice AR Dave and justice Ranjana P Desai, said.
The bench ordered that the complaint committee headed by Additional Registrar Poonam Sharma would now include senior advocates Indu Malhotra and Anand Grover and Neena Naik — a member of the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights in Delhi — provided there was no objection to her inclusion in the committee on account of the position she held.
The court directed National Legal Services Authority Member Secretary Asha Menon to provide data with regard to the existence of the committees constituted in the line of the judgment in Vishaka’s case in the different courts across India by April 23, the next date of hearing.
The bench also directed that having regard to a recent incident of alleged intrusion of privacy of a woman advocate in the Delhi High Court, the ministry of women and child development and the ministry of social justice and empowerment be made parties to these proceedings.