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VISHAKA VS. STATE OF RAJASTHAN

Author: Subhajit Samanta, V year of B.A.,LL.B. from Bikash Bharati Law College, University of Calcutta.


Citation: [AIR 1997 SC 3011: JT 1997 (7) SC 384]

Bench Of Judges: C.J.I., Mrs Sujata V. Manohar and B. N. Kirpal, JJ


INTRODUCTION

It is the case that deals with the crime of Sexually Harassment of women at her workplace. This is a landmark judgment example in the past of sexual harassment of women that is being held by the Hon'ble Supreme Court. Therefore, it denotes an unwelcome/uninvited demand or request for sexual favours or sexual gestures from one woman toward the Man. Besides, it creates the individual feel offended, humiliated and insulted to whom it would occur. In various cases of the judiciary, it has been examined that homosexual labour harasses an employee ongoing to the similar sexual intercourse to which he/she belongs. This is the first landmark case wherein the hon'ble Supreme Court held with the powers empowered in Article 32 of the Indian constitution. At that time, due to the requirements of any law, the Hon'ble Court has formulated guidelines and norms to be followed at public and private workplaces or institutions for giving measures to examine the evil of sexual harassment of a working woman til the legislation is passed for the same. After that case, the sexual harassment of women at the workplace (prevention, prohibition and redressal) act, 2013 was enacted.


FACTS OF THE CASE

A woman named Bhanwari Devi who was a social worker at the village level of a development programme which is run by the State Government of Rajasthan. In the position of her work, she was fighting against children and multiple marriages in villages. However, she was taken an issue with the attempted rape of a woman from a neighbouring village. The village's members were given their full assistance for the activity on the behalf of Bhanwari Devi. Besides, she was taken another issue which is based upon the village level development programme by the State of Rajasthan against child and multiple marriages in the year 1992. However, the campaign got ignorance and disapproval from the members of the village. In September 1992, while they were working in their fields, five men including Ramkaran Gujjar who were committed gang-raped Bhanwari Devi in front of her husband. At the police station, the women constables taunted Bhanwari throughout the night. It was the last day at midnight when the policemen asked Bhanwari Devi to leave her lehenga behind as evidence and return to her village. She was left with merely her husband's bloodstained dhoti to wear. Their pleas to let them sleep in the police station at night were turned down. The trial court acquitted the accused, however, Bhanwari Devi was determined to fight further and get justice. She said that she had nothing to be ashamed of and that the men should be ashamed due to what they had done. Bhanwari Devi's fighting spirit inspired fellow saathins and women's groups nationwide. In the months that followed they launched a concerted campaign for justice for Bhanwari. In December 1993, the High Court said, "it is a case of gang-rape which was committed out of vengeance". As part of this campaign, the groups had filed a petition in the Supreme Court of India, under the name 'Vishaka' and asked the court to confer certain directions regarding the sexual harassment that women face at the workplace. The result is the Supreme Court judgment, which came on 13th August 1997 and conferred the Vishaka guidelines.


ISSUES RAISED

1) Whether sexual harassment at the workplace amounts to a violation of rights guaranteed under article14, 15, 19, and 21 of the constitution?

2) Whether the employer responsible for the happening of sexual harassment at his workplace?


ARGUMENTS OF THE PARTIES

The petition has been filed by an NGO which named vishaka and they were put their contention by expressing that the sexual harassment of women at the workplace would be infringed the part III of the Constitution that are fundamental rights which guaranteed under Articles 14, 15, 19(1)(g) and 21.

Those Articles are safeguarded the following :

  • Article 14 which confers equality before the law and equal protection of the law to all the people within the territory of India.

  • Article 15 which prohibits the people from discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth.

  • Article 19(1)(g) which confers an individual has right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business.

  • Article 21 which provides a person has the right to life and personal liberty.

Therefore, sexual harassment of a woman at the workplace which infringes the above mention rights conferred to the individual under the Constitution of India. The petitioner also expressed the problems concerning the provision relating to a protected working place for the women. Moreover, the petitioner also requested the Hon'ble Court to establish the guidelines for the prevention of sexual harassment of a woman in the workplace.


In this case, the respondent's counsel was done something unusual, the learned solicitor general appeared on behalf of the respondent and he endorsed the petitioner. The respondent counsel was requested to the Hon'ble Court to discover a beneficial way to quit the sexual harassment of women at the workplace and also sought to frame guidelines for the deterrence of the same.


JUDGEMENT

In the absence of domestic law occupying in the field, to formulate an effective measure to check the evil of sexual harassment of working women at the work places, the contents of International Conventions and norms are significant for the purpose of interpretation of the guarantee of gender equality and right to work with human dignity under Artcles 14, 15, 19 (1) (g) and 21 of the Constitution and the protections against sexual harassment implicit therein. Any International Convention not inconsistent with the fundamental rights and in harmony with its spirit must be read into these provisions to enlarge the meaning and cotent thereof, to promote the object of the constitutional guarantees. This is implicit from Article 51 (c) and the enabling power of the Parliament to enact laws for implementing the International Convention by Article 253 read with entry 14 of the Uthe neon List in Seventh Schedule of the constitution.


CONCLUSION

The concept of liberty and equality have been endorsed in the landmark Judgement of Visakha vs State of Rajasthan by the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India. The beginning of the law against sexual harassment of women at work place has inspired in this case. After that, many women were raised their voice and supported against the evil issue that they were silently subjected to til the year 1997. The main spirit of Judicial Activism has been decorated in this landmark Judgement and it has been an inspiration case to other countries as well.