New Delhi, May 13, 2023: The Supreme Court of India has expressed its concerns over the inadequate implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 [POSH Act], even a decade after its enactment. The Court has taken note of a recent report in a national daily, which highlighted that 16 out of the 30 national sports federations in the country have not yet constituted an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC).
Terming this as a “sorry state of affairs”, the bench comprising Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli proceeded to issue a set of directions to strengthen the implementation of the POSH Act.
Further, the Bench opined that being the victim of sexual harassment brings down the self-esteem of a person as well as mental and physical health. Despite this, one of the reasons for not reporting instances of sexual harassment could be the uncertainty about “who to approach under the Act for redressal of their grievance”. Another factor is the lack of confidence in the process and its outcome, the Bench pointed out.
“This is indeed a sorry state of affairs and reflects poorly on all the State functionaries, public authorities, private undertakings, organisations and institutions that are duty bound to implement the PoSH Act in letter and spirit. Being a victim of such a deplorable act not only dents the self esteem of a woman, it also takes a toll on her emotional, mental and physical health. It is often seen that when women face sexual harassment at the workplace, they are reluctant to report such misconduct. Many of them even drop out from their job. One of the reasons for this reluctance to report is that there is an uncertainty about who to approach under the Act for redressal of their grievance. Another is the lack of confidence in the process and its outcome. This social malady needs urgent amelioration through robust and efficient implementation of the Act. To achieve this, it is imperative to educate the complainant victim about the import and working of the Act.”
The ICC is a mandatory requirement under the POSH Act for all organisations with 10 or more employees to ensure a safe working environment for women. The ICC is responsible for receiving and addressing complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace. The Court has expressed its displeasure that even national sports federations, which should be setting an example for the rest of the country, are not complying with this basic requirement.
The Court has also noted that where the ICC has been set up, they lack the stipulated number of members or the mandatory external member. These lapses have been identified as serious breaches of the POSH Act, which was enacted to prevent and redress incidents of sexual harassment at the workplace.
The Court has called upon the Ministry of Sports and Youth Affairs to take immediate action to ensure that all national sports federations comply with the POSH Act. The Court has also directed the Ministry to submit a report on the steps taken to ensure compliance within the next four weeks.
The Supreme Court has previously upheld the POSH Act as a vital tool in protecting women’s rights and preventing sexual harassment at the workplace. The Act mandates that every employer has a duty to provide a safe and harassment-free work environment for women.
The failure to implement the Act in its entirety is a serious lapse that must be addressed immediately. The Supreme Court’s intervention is a step in the right direction towards ensuring that women are protected from sexual harassment at the workplace. The need of the hour is to ensure that the POSH Act is implemented strictly and that all employers, including national sports federations, comply with its provisions.