SRILANKAN AIRLINES HELD GUILTY FOR NOT CONSTITUTING ICC

Today, across the globe, sexual harassment at workplace is increasingly understood and recognized as a violation of women’s rights and a form of violence against them. The doctrine of equality and personal liberty laid down in Articles 14, 15 and 21 of the Indian Constitution secure a person’s right to equal protection under the law, to live a life free from discrimination on any ground and protection of life and personal liberty. Whereas sexual harassment of women at workplace is not only discriminatory but it also abrogates women’s right to life and livelihood. In India, for the first time in 1997, a petition was filed in the Supreme Court in the case of Vishaka and Others v. State of Rajasthan to enforce the fundamental rights of a working women after the brutal gang rape of Bhanwani Devi, a social worker from Rajasthan. As an outcome the Court laid down a landmark judgment and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 was enacted. The Act made it mandatory for every employer to provide a mechanism to redress grievances pertaining to any acts of sexual harassment against women at workplace and establish gender equality at workplaces. The Act is also unique for it is applicable to the organized as well as the unorganized sector. The Act provides for two kinds of complaints mechanisms: Internal Complaint Committee (ICC) and Local Complaint Committee (LCC). All Complaint Committees must have 50 per cent representation from women and the ICC or LCC members will hold their position not exceeding three years from the date of their nomination or appointment. Section 4 (1) of the Act mandates that every employer of a workplace shall, by an order in writing, constitute a Committee to be known as the “Internal Complaints Committee.” On 24 December, 2020 the District Court of Delhi namely Patiala House Court convicted Srilankan Airlines for an offence under Section 26 of the Act after a complaint was filed against the airlines. The victim had alleged that she had been sexually harassed multiple times and she had reported the same to the then supervisor of the accused, the Regional Manager. But the company deliberately delayed the inquiry with a pretext that appropriate action will be taken whereas in fact, no action was initiated even after repeated incidents against the victim. After which at the request of National Commission for Women, an enquiry was conducted by the police in the matter. Additionally, an FIR was lodged against the accused manager. The Court held the Regional Manager- Lalith De Silva guilty under Section 509 of IPC for outraging the modesty of one of his junior colleagues at its Delhi division office while he was posted there. Further, the Metropolitan Magistrate, while passing the judgement held that it is mandatory for every workplace, organization, etc. to constitute an Internal Complaints Committees and have women representation in the same. In the case mentioned, the Airlines had failed to comply with the provisions and conditions laid down in the said PoSH Act and hence the Court held them liable under Section 26 of the Act and imposed a fine of Rs. 50,000/-. The court gave a next date of January 7 for further arguments on the quantum of sentence.

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