Reported by K Shivani Prasad
The Supreme Court in its recent case of Ms. Binu Tamta & Anr .V High Court of Delhi & Ors outlined a new meaning of sexual harassment inclusive of “sending of undesirable sexually colored text or voice messages or sexually explicit material to women advocates and also stalking”.
A writ petition was filed by two Supreme Court Advocates, Ms. Binu Tamta and Ms. Vibha Datta Makhija, seeking reliefs on the grounds of a report published in a newspaper regarding an incident which took place in Delhi High Court. It reported that an employee of the High Court had been filming female advocates in the chamber toilet.
With this writ petition being filed, the question of formation of a committee cropped, suggested by the court to be formed in its decision rendered in the case of Vishakha and Others v. State of Rajasthan and Others 1997(6) SCC 241. The SC in the said case had provided for the imperious constitution of female-dominated sexual harassment committees in the workplace. Although these committees were formed only for the advantages of “employees”, restricting women lawyers in courts from enjoying its benefits since lawyers are not employees of the court.
It also occasioned the court to direct framing proper Regulations for gender sensitisation and to prevent sexual harassment of women at the Supreme Court of India and in other courts as well.
The apex court in the same petition on one of its hearing on 23rd of April ordered for the constitution of a sub-Committee with Mr. Fali S. Nariman, as its Chairperson to look into the reports submitted by Ms. Asha Menon in her role as Member Secretary of the National Legal Services Committee and also to evaluate the draft rules prepared by Ms. Vibha Datta Makhija and then later to it submit an all embracing set of draft rules which shall be the concrete turf for future order to be passed by the court. The committee had only two male members.
After this Report was submitted in draft form before the court, the court after meticulous discussion suggested the committee to making few amendments. Thereafter, the final draft of regulations called The Gender Sensitization & Sexual Harassment of Women at the Supreme Court of India (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Regulations, 2013 came into being.
The Regulation provides for a Gender Sensitization and Internal Complaints Committee (GSICC) headed by a sitting SC judge who shall decide on the complaints. Any advocate charged as guilty by the GSICC can face criminal trial along with being banned from entering the bounds of SC for up to a year.