Vishaka & Others v. the State of Rajasthan and Others
(1997) 6 SCC 241
The decision was delivered by 'Three Judges' Bench' namely, Hon'ble Judge J.S.
Verma, Hon'ble Judge Sujata V. Manohar and Hon'ble Judge B.N. Kirpal.
Area Of Law:
The case was primarily related to Constitutional and Criminal Law.
Author Of The Judgement:
The judgement was authored by Hon'ble Judge J.S. Verma.
Supreme Court gave the unanimous decision in the said judgement.
The ability to practice any vocation, trade, or profession is a fundamental
right, yet this right is largely dependent on the availability of a secure
workplace. The right to a life with dignity is included in India's
Constitution's guarantee of the right to life.
The legislature and executive branch have a fundamental duty to ensure such
safety and protection of dignity by passing appropriate legislation and putting
in place suitable mechanisms for it.
After reviewing several legal rulings and the pertinent Constitutional Article,
the court concluded that gender equality is ingrained in the Indian Constitution
and that the prevention of sexual harassment is a key component of gender
The court has the authority to uphold any fundamental rights under Article 32 in
absence of any explicit law.
Facts Of The Case:
A woman named Bhanwari Devi of Bhateri, Rajasthan joined as a 'Saathin' or a
grassroot worker in The Women's Development Project (WDP), which was run by the
State Government of Rajasthan and was set to put an end to child marriages
taking place in that village.
She was working at the office someday to prevent the marriage of a 9-month-old
daughter in Ramkaran Gujjar's (thakurs) household. Sadly, the family falsely
accused her of degrading them and even after a lot of efforts from Bhanwari, the
family succeeded in getting the infant married off the next day.
The five men - Ram Sukh Gujjar, Gyarsa Gujjar, Ram Karan Gujjar and Badri Gujjar
- four of whom are members of the aforementioned Gujjar family and one other -
Shravan Sharma - planned to take revenge and then attacked Bhanwari Devi's
husband. After knocking him out cold, she was brutally gangraped by all five
Going to the police station didn't help; she was instructed to leave her lehenga
there as a medical documentation. Bhanwari Devi, although lodged a complaint in
the police station, but her search for justice was never over. There was a
fifty-two-hour delay in the medical examination. However, the examiner just
mentioned the victim's age in the report and made no reference to any rape
The district and sessions court in Jaipur dismissed the case and found all five
defendants not guilty in its ruling on November 15, 1995. However, after some
time, the five judges were changed and the sixth judge rendered a verdict of not
guilty, citing, among other things, the fact that Bhanwari's husband could not
have stood by while his wife was being gangraped.
The situation came to light after a story from Rajasthan Patrika went viral, and
the state administration ultimate chose to appeal the verdict under pressure
from women's organizations and non-governmental organizations. In 2007, the
Rajasthan High Court only convened one hearing on the matter because two of the
defendants had already passed away.
This prompted four other organizations, including an NGO and women's rights
groups called "Vishaka," to join forces and file a petition against this
horrific gang rape. It placed particular emphasis on the implementation of
women's fundamental rights at work as guaranteed by articles 14,15 and 21 of the
Indian Constitution and also brought up the issue of the need to protect women
from sexual harassment at workplace.
Issues Of The Case:
Following are the issues of the case:
- Determining if sexual harassment at work constitutes a breach of rights
protected by Articles 14,15,19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution.
- If there are no current laws that apply to the case, might the case
nevertheless apply international laws?
- Is there any liability of sexual harassment committed against or by
employees of the employer?
In light of the prevailing environment, in which these rights were routinely
violated, a writ petition had been filed to enforce the basic rights of working
women under Articles 14,15,19 and 21 of the Indian Constitution. The endeavor to
prevent such violations has increased along with knowledge of and emphasis on
gender justice; indignation toward instances of sexual harassment was also
Some social activists and NGOs filed the petition as a class action in order to
draw attention to this social anomaly, aid in the development of appropriate
strategies for realizing the actual meaning of "gender equality" and prevent
sexual harassment of working women in all workplace settings through a proper
The violation of the victim's fundamental right under Article 19(1)(g) to
"practice any profession or to carry out any occupation, trade, or business" was
another outcome of such a horrific incident. As a result, such infractions were
subject to the Article 32 remedy for the enforcement of these fundamental rights
This was the rationale behind the class action brought under Article 32 of the
Constitution. As this type of fundamental rights infringement was a recurrent
occurrence, a writ of mandamus in such a situation should be accompanied by
instructions if it was to be effective and therefore an effective resolution
necessitated the establishment of some guidelines for the protection of those
rights in order to fill the legislative gap.
The experienced Solicitor General backed the petitioners while speaking on
behalf of the respondents in this matter (with their cooperation). The
respondent helped the honorable court come up with a practical strategy to stop
sexual harassment and design the rules for its avoidance. The Hon'ble court
received assistance in handling the aforementioned case from Fali S. Nariman,
the amicus curiae of the Hon'ble court, as well as from Ms. Naina Kapur and Ms.
Decision Of The Court:
The Hon'ble Supreme Court of India observed that there was then no legislation
in place to protect women from sexual harassment and to ensure a secure work
environment. In any case of sexual harassment, Sections 354 and 354A of the
Indian Penal Code,1860 were to be consulted; however, the clauses in question
were not covered by these sections. This helped the Hon'ble court to understand
the need for proper and effective laws that would deal with sexual harassment.
The Hon'ble court made reference from the international treaties to proceed with
the matter. In order to serve as a protector of citizens' rights and
independently enact laws in the lack of any, it made reference to the Beijing
Statement of Principles on the Independence of the Judiciary in the Lawasia
region. The articles of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) were then cited by the Hon'ble court. Them
- The state must take all necessary steps to end discrimination against
women in the workplace, according to Article 11(1)(a) and Article 11(1)(f).
- According to Article 24, the state is required to take all the necessary
national level actions to bring about the complete fulfillment.
The Supreme Court's primary goal was to ensure that there was no discrimination
against women in the workplace and that there was gender equality among all
Following this case, the Supreme Court clarified the definition of sexual
harassment, making it clear that it includes:
- Any physical contact or behavior
- Display of pornography
- Any offensive remarks or misbehavior
- Any sexually motivated behavior towards women
The Vishaka Guidelines, which were to be treated as law as declared under
Article 141 of the Indian Constitution, were established by the Hon'ble Supreme
Court of India to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace. The Sexual
Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act of
2013 was also built on the principles of these guidelines.
In 1997, as part of the Vishaka ruling, the Supreme Court published
comprehensive guidelines on how to stop sexual harassment of women at work.
- Every company is accountable for creating a secure workplace where each
and every employee can advance and thrive. This means taking the required
measures to safeguard the interests of female workers and make sure that
sexual harassment is not occurring.
- If a female employee is the victim of sexual harassment or other
improper treatment, the employer is required to take appropriate
disciplinary action. The rule states that an employer must make a complaint
if their actions towards an employee constitute a crime punishable by the
Indian Penal Code.
- The employer is required to take precautions to safeguard the witnesses
and make sure they are not mistreated in the future.
- Workplaces should have a strict process in place to guarantee that
complaints are handled quickly and effectively.
- The suggestions state that in order to ensure that employee complaints
are handled properly, and the proper cause of action is taken in response to
them, each organization must set up a complaint redressal committee.
- To prevent pressure from the employer's upper management, a third party
should be involved, such as an NGO.
- This will guarantee that sexually harassed women get the funding support
from their employer's when they need to file a lawsuit and hire qualified
attorneys to represent them.
- Additionally, it is the employer's duty to promote awareness of sexual
harassment and the protection of women at work. This can be done by alerting
staff beforehand, hosting workshops, and coming up with other fun ways to
enlighten female employees of their rights.
Later, the Vishaka guidelines were replaced by the Sexual Harassment of Women at
Work (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act,2013.
First and foremost, the Hon'ble Supreme Court's contributions are definitely
noteworthy. On a more serious note, this case touches on one of the most
important and important issues for women, and it has helped to illuminate the
issue to some level. The judiciary's recognition of the gaps in the laws'
provisions and the necessity to come up with a necessary remedy for the social
ill also strengthens democracy in its purest form.
In the lack of adequate domestic legislation, the court's decision to include
the International Convention is without a doubt perfectly perfect. When
comparing the circumstances then and now, it can be said that sexual harassment
is still a threat to women. One of these events in a woman's life has the
potential to have a negative impact on every aspect of her life.
Even nine years after the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act of 2013
was passed, numerous instances of sexual harassment continue to be recorded, and
many more go unreported.
The Act has fallen short of the high expectations that one would have for a
statute that has been hanging in the balance for more than 16 years. A number of
the portions are self-defeating and nullifying, and several crucial components
have gone missed. The availability of fundamental mechanisms, such as the supply
of legal expertise, clinical counselling facilities, medical insurances related
to the violence, compensation from the employer, and so forth, has not been
The Act, which was meant to be very victim-friendly, constantly presents
challenges for the victim. Laws should be updated to reflect societal changes,
especially in cases of sexual assault and exploitation.
In many cases, the inability to link the advancement of the law with societal
advancement shows a lot about the degree of ignorance surrounding extremely
humiliating behaviors like sexual harassment. The Act should be carefully
examined by the legislature, and any defects found should be fixed. A strong and
sincere effort on the part of the legislators is required in a seriously
impacted society like India to address and eliminate this issue. Since
Independence, socially speaking, women's empowerment has advanced significantly,
but there are still many areas where it has to be accomplished.
The mindset of the society's gender stereotyping can be traced to this enormous
discrepancy. The most effective way to achieve gender equality is for society to
actually change its thinking. Then and only then can the banner of women's
empowerment be proudly displayed.
India is significantly closer to achieving its development objectives, and more
women are working. In order to protect women's human rights, it is crucial to
acknowledge their right to protection from sexual harassment. All of this is a
step in the right direction toward securing women's autonomy, equality of
opportunity, and the right to a respectable job.
It is necessary to address the systemic problem of workplace sexual harassment.
It is crucial to increase awareness among employers and employees of the many
forms of sexual harassment that can occur at work, as well as of preventative
actions and the legal basis for doing so.
In view of women's empowerment, it goes without saying that this case proved to
be one of the pivotal moments in society's reformation. It is important to
respect the Court's efforts in this decision to provide a definitive answer to
the relevant question. Clearly, this decision establishes an important precedent
that has continued to this day.
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, which was eventually passed in
2013 and made a number of necessary clauses clear, was what ultimately made
everything clear. Nevertheless, even with such legislation in place, the social
issue of sexual harassment at work persists.
But guys can also experience sexual harassment in a variety of situations. As a
result, there is an urgent need for new law that is more suitable to address
these issues. All of them have the outcome that more relevant legislation is
urgently needed to address every aspect of this problem.
Dissemination and awareness-raising activities should be undertaken and reviewed
on a regular basis in order to develop best practices for dealing with sexual
harassment in the workplace, as well as to forewarn and enlighten prospective
victims of sexual harassment so that they can avoid it. Enhancing sexual
harassment training classes and following the guidelines on sexual harassment
prevention can aid women in combating it.