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.
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.
- 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”.
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
- 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.