Feb 24, 2022
Addressing Sexual Harassment within the Supreme Court
Trigger Warning: This post contains information on physical violence and sexual violence which some readers may find disturbing.
The Gender Sensitisation and Internal Complaints Committee (GSICC) of the Supreme Court has found Ashok Saini, the clerk of an advocate, guilty of sexual harassment within Court premises. Saini has been debarred from entering the Court premises for three months.
What are the Supreme Court’s regulations on prevention of sexual harassment?
The Supreme Court has its own specific regulations to address sexual harassment within Court premises.
The regulations state that a woman can file a complaint against anyone who subjects her to sexual harassment within Supreme Court premises, including the Court blocks, open grounds, libraries, canteens, health centers etc. Sexual harassment includes:
- Stalking or consistently following a woman in the Court premises and outside
- Abusing one’s position to seek sexual favours from a woman, especially using career advancements as an incentive, or threatening to harm her legal career
- Physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature
How to file a complaint against sexual harassment?
The law states that any aggrieved woman can make a written complaint of sexual harassment at the workplace to the Internal Committee, or Local Committee (if the workplace does not have an Internal Committee). With regard to the Supreme Court, this is the GSICC.
Who can assist in making the complaint?
If the aggrieved woman cannot make a written complaint, the Presiding Officer/any Internal Committee member, or the Chairperson/any Local Committee member, should reasonably assist the woman in making the written complaint.
If the woman is unable to make a complaint due to any reason, such as physical/mental incapacity or death, her legal heir or another person (friend, relative, qualified psychologist etc.) can make the complaint.
Is there a time limit to file the complaint?
Yes, the complaint should be filed within three months from the date of the incident of harassment. The concerned Committee may extend the time limit after giving written reasons, if it believes that circumstances prevented the woman from filing a complaint within the period.
How does the concerned Committee inquire into the complaint?
If the respondent is an employee of the workplace, the concerned Committee will inquire into the complaint according to the applicable service rules. If both the complainant and respondent are employees, the Committee will give both parties the opportunity of being heard. Both parties will receive a copy of the Committee’s findings so that they can make representation against the findings before the Committee.
What is the punishment for committing sexual harassment within the Supreme Court?
The GSICC can pass the following orders against a guilty person:
- Reprimanding the person (even publicly)
- Prohibiting them from communicating with the aggrieved woman
- Barring their entry from Court premises for up to one year
- Recommending filing of a criminal/disciplinary complaint against the person to the concerned authority (including Bar Council).