How I wish the ‘Guidelines against sexual harassment’ issued by the Supreme Court in the Visakha judgment had been available in 1988 instead of 1996! How much less convoluted my path for justice would have been. For then, the onus of quick executive action would have been squarely on the employer (the Chief Secretary). Because I was Secretary to the Government when the then DGP misbehaved with me, the employer in my case was the Governor. Let not all those smug officials and social worthies, who in such cases state “let the law takes its own course”, imagine that they are being very just and even-handed in their approach, for they are actually condemning the victim to a lifetime of judicial struggle at her own financial, social, psychological, mental and physical cost. A lifetime goes by when one has to fight single-handedly against a system and societal mindset on gender-based issues, deeply ingrained in the minds of not only the Executive but also the Judiciary, who all suffer from age-old attitudes adopted by society towards women.
In my case, the struggle lasted for over 17 years, from 1988 to 2005. The last 10 years were entirely avoidable. The trial court had convicted KPS Gill in 1996 (upon directions from the Supreme Court). The convicted DGP filed an appeal before the District & Sessions Judge, then before the High Court and then the SC. Even after being squarely rebuffed by all the courts, which upheld the conviction, he did not stop, but filed a further Review Petition before the SC, which failed. Perhaps all this would have not happened if mine had been a post- guidelines case.
I was forced to file an FIR, followed by a judicial complaint because my employer purposely did not take any action to punish the culprit. The IPC was framed in 1860, but Sections 354 and 509 that deal with outraging and insulting a woman’s modesty, remained unused for these offences. Also, it was for the first time in the course of my case that the SC needed to define the term ‘modesty’ — in 1995!
But now, a successful precedent has been provided to the Women of India. While it has taken me 17-and-a-half years to do so, it will not take them so long to bring the culprit to book.