Orissa High Court: While hearing a civil writ petition seeking implementation of Section 19(b) of the Sexual Harassment of Women and Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (‘Act, 2013’), the Court noted that the order dated 07-12-2022, whereby the government officers and other authorities were directed to implement the mandate of Section 19(b) of the Act, 2013 was not complied with by the authorities till date, the division Bench of S. Talapatra, CJ and Savitri Ratho, J. directed the authorities under the Central Government and the State Governments to comply with the direction of Section 19(b) of the Act, 2013 within a period of three months from the date of order.
In the matter at hand, a Public Interest Litigation petition was filed seeking implementation of Section 19(b) of the Act, 2013. The Court had directed the authorities concerned to file an affidavit as to the status of the compliance with the Section 19(b), which provides that every employer ‘shall display at any conspicuous place in the workplace, the penal consequences of sexual harassments; and the order constituting, the Internal Committee’. Section 19 provides for duties of the employer towards ensuring a safe working environment at the workplace. However, no substantial progress was made in compliance of the order.
‘(i) any department, organisation, undertaking, establishment, enterprise, institution, office, branch or unit which is established, owned, controlled or wholly or substantially financed by funds provided directly or indirectly by the appropriate Government or the local authority or a Government company or a corporation or a co-operative society;
(ii) any private sector organisation or a private venture, undertaking, enterprise, institution, establishment, society, trust, non-governmental organisation, unit or service provider carrying on commercial, professional, vocational, educational, entertainment, industrial, health services or financial activities including production, supply, sale, distribution or service;
(iii) hospitals or nursing homes;
(iv) any sports institute, stadium, sports complex or competition or games venue, whether residential or not used for training, sports or other activities relating thereto;
(v) any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment including transportation by the employer for undertaking such journey;
(vi) a dwelling place or a house’.
Therefore, the Court directed all the authorities under the Central Government and the State Governments to comply with the direction of Section 19(b) of the Act, 2013 within a period of three months from the date of order. The Court also directed that the authorities must place a billboard showing the penal consequences of sexual harassment etc. The Court also directed that the said billboard shall include a toll-free telephone number and committed phone number so that whenever or wherever a threat of sexual harassment or fear of violation of dignity in any manner is perceived by a woman, the same can be immediately reported for her protection and for taking action against the culprit.
The Court said that the violation/non-compliance of the said directions would entail the contempt of Court and a strict view would be taken, if such violation is brought to the notice of the Court by any citizen.
[Biyat Pragya Tripathy v. State of Odisha, Writ Petition (Civil) No. 33000 of 2022, Order dated: 15-09-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
For the petitioner: Advocate Sujata Dash
For the respondents: Additional Government Advocate S. Patnaik, Deputy Solicitor General of India P.K. Parhi, Central Government Counsel B.S. Rayaguru