Laws on Sexual Harassment at Workplace in India

Laws on Sexual Harassment at Workplace in India

A person working in an industry or any other professional space can be a victim of sexual harassment at work place. The topic of “Sexual Harassment at Workplace” came into light after the case of Vishaka v State of Rajasthan. Prior 1997 the women who were the victims of sexual harassment at workplace had to resort for redressal under Section 354 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860 which talks about, “criminal sexual assault to outrage the modesty of a women”.

Sexual Harassment is believed to violate the constitutional rights of women under Article 14 and 15. The Article 21 which guarantees right to life and to live with dignity is also curbed by such an act. The women are entitled to a free and safe professional environment for working, which at times is disturbed by the acts of person.  Feeling the need for protection of Women

After the Nirbhaya Case (Delhi Gang Rape, 2102), the Justice Verma Committee put forth their views about the required amendments in the law. The need was also felt for the formation of Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. The key objective of the Committee was to suggest various amendments in the criminal law in order to introduce harsher and stricter punishments for people involved in offences against women.

The Section 2 of the Act defines Sexual Harassment, means includes either one or any of the following activities done either directly or any implied way, such as:

  • Physical contact or advances
  • Showing pornography
  • A demand or request for sexual favours
  • Making sexually coloured remarks.
  • Any other physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of a sexual manner

Major features of the Act:

  • Constitution of Internal Complaints Committee, to be headed by a Presiding Officer and must have not less than two members, preferably people committed with work for women. 
  • Establishment of Local Complaint Committee in every district. The Presiding Officer shall be a women working at a higher level in the workplace amongst the other employees. Among all the members at least one-half of the members should be women.
  • The powers of the internal complaint committee as well as the local complaint committee must be that of a civil court.
  • The Act also specifies the duties of an employer:
  • Express prohibition of sexual harassment as defined above at the work place should be notified, published and circulated in appropriate ways.
  • The Rules and Regulations of both private and public bodies must be strict in order to prohibit sexual harassment and penalties must be given in order to send a strong message regarding the same.
    • So far as the private employers are concerned, steps should be taken to include the mentioned prohibitions in the standing orders under the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.
    • The workplace environment must be fit for working of a woman. They should be provided with all the basic amenities for work and leisure.
  • Both the committees shall prepare an annual report and submit the same to the employer as well as the concerned District Officer.
  • No Court inferior to Metropolitan Magistrate or Judicial Magistrate First Class shall deal with the offences committed under this Act.


Section 354A of the Indian Penal Code, 1860:
This Section was inserted after the recommendations of the Justice Verma Committee. The offence of Sexual Harassment is punishable under this section with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three years, or with fine or with both.
Moreover, if a person makes sexually coloured remarks, he must be punished with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or with both.


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