The Supreme Court rejects plea seeking directions for protection of witnesses and complainants in cases of sexual harassment at the workplace

No Need To Refer The Petition Challenging The Abrogation Of Article 370 Of The Constitution To A Larger Bench: SC

A Bench of Justices R Banumathi and AS Bopanna of the Supreme Court rejected a petition filed by one Sunita Thawani, who challenged Delhi High Court’s rejection of her PIL seeking directions for protection of witnesses and complainants in cases of sexual harassment at the workplace.

Prior Facts:

In the PIL filed, the petitioner had sought to highlight the absence of provisions in the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act of 2013 to protect complainants and witnesses from retaliation or victimization by the accused or by the organization. In regard to this, she thus filed a PIL before the Delhi High Court seeking a direction for an amendment to the Act to add the necessary provisions, or if not, for the Court to lay down Guidelines or issue directions on the same. The High Court though rejected the PIL and asked to approach the Apex Court for the same.

Key Features:

  • The Delhi High Court had dismissed the plea in July 2019, saying the petitioner was effectively seeking the creation of a new offence under the head of ‘retaliation’, something which the Act has not provided.
  • The High Court had reasoned that courts cannot legislate. It had concluded that Ms. Thawani’s plea was “fundamentally misconceived.”
  • The High Court also added previously that, “Retaliation or victimisation, are only the provocation for an act of assault. If an act of assault amounts to sexual harassment, it would anyway be punishable under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013. If it does not, it cannot be punishable under the Act, as it deals with only offences of a sexual nature”.

Judgement:

The Supreme Court decided to not entertain the plea and thus rejected it. It though granted liberty to the petitioner to ‘work out her legal remedy’. It stated that, “We are not inclined to entertain the special leave petition. The special leave petition is, accordingly, disposed of by giving liberty to the petitioner to work out her remedy in accordance with law including by making representation before the concerned authorities”.

Edited by J. Madonna Jephi

Approved & Published – Sakshi Raje

Reference:

  • Case of Sunita Thawani vs. Union of India, Petition(s) for Special Leave to Appeal (C) No(s). 28851/2019, decided by the Supreme Court of India on February 06, 2020.
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Vaibhav Goyal is a 3rd year BA.LLB (H) student of UILS, Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. He also basically belongs to the “City Beautiful-Chandigarh”. He had interned and have work experience at various Central and State Government bodies of India including the National Human Rights Commission, New Delhi; the Central Information Commission, New Delhi; U.T. Legal Services Authority, Chandigarh, etc. His research projects includes the study on the Right to Emergency Services (PSHRC), Resettlement of Migrant People (NHRC), Implications of RTI in Financial Institutions (CIC), etc. His publications involve articles in different fields of law like administrative, jurisprudence, etc. on online journals including the Juscholars Blog, Burnished Law Journal, etc. His research paper on Prison Reform was published in the Panjab University Journal and his paper was selected in category of best abstract on the topic of Naxalism: A State of Lawlessness and Arbitrariness. He had scored well in various competitions of law consisting of Quiz, Essay Writing, Lecture, Declamation, etc. He had also participated in various conferences including the World Law Forum Conference on Strategic Lawsuits on Public Participation held in New Delhi on Oct 20, 2018 and the National Law Conclave 2020 held at Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi on Jan 11, 2020.