HC raps Centre, Delhi govt over failure to implement Vishaka guidelines

HC raps Centre, Delhi govt over failure to implement Vishaka guidelines

The Delhi High Court today pulled up the Centre and the city government over their failure to implement Vishaka guidelines on dealing with cases of sexual harassment against women in aviation industry here.

Besides the government agencies, Justice Hima Kohli also questioned Sri Lankan Airlines for not setting up a regular internal complaints committees, as per the guidelines, at its seven offices in India to look into instances of sexual harassment.

"What steps you (Centre, Delhi government and Airlines) have taken for the implementation of Vishaka guidelines in all Airlines or at every workplace. You should have done it by now.

"You should ensure that Vishaka guidelines are functional in every other organisation. I am not only on this case related to Sri Lankan Airlines. The harassment is taking place at every place," the court said.

The court's oral observation came during the hearing of a plea by an Indian woman, who was employed with Sri Lankan Airlines, against Civil Aviation and Women and Child Development ministries as well as Delhi government, the airline and its official against whom allegations of sexual harassment have been levelled by the woman.
It has also alleged that Vishaka guidelines have not been implemented by Sri Lankan Airlines Ltd or by Delhi government which was to constitute a local committee to hear complaints of sexual harassment at workplace.

However, Ministry of Women and Child Development, through its counsel Zubeda Begum, informed the court that they are in the process of implementing the Act "Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (prevention, Prohibition and redressal) Act" vide which all the departmental complaint committee are being converted into Internal Complaint Committees.

Responding to the Ministry's submission, the court termed it as "sketchy" and said they should have done this in the past instead of waiting for the present or the future.

"Union Of India is passing the buck that the State will do it. It does not sound good," the court said, adding that the concerned authorities shall file a fresh status report with regard to the constitution of committee as per Vishaka guidelines and its functioning.

It also directed the foreign airline to file their report before February 10 in the light of the issues raised in the petition, including what steps they have taken to implement Vishaka guidelines.

The judge also rapped the Sri Lankan Airlines over the issue that the woman earlier had to travel all the way to Colombo for participating in the ongoing investigation into the complaint.

After the woman had moved the High Court, the complaints committee was set up in Delhi specifically to deal with her complaint.

The woman, a sales executive in the foreign airline, in her petition filed through advocate Ajay Verma, has alleged that her complaint of sexual harassment against a senior colleague, a Sri Lankan, has been pending since 2009 and the airline has not taken any action against him.

Her petition has sought a direction to government to ensure implementation of Vishaka guidelines as well as provisions of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act in all airlines which fall under the jurisdiction of the Civil Aviation Ministry.

It has said the woman was transferred to Kochi from Delhi as a result of the complaint against the senior official and sought protection from transfer or termination while the petition is pending before the court.

The woman has in her petition also alleged that in 2013 when she had enquired about the status of her complaint, she was informed that it is now a closed subject.

Thereafter, she had got in touch with the National Commission for Women which sent a letter to the Delhi Police Commissioner to look into the matter, the petition said.
Subsequently, after conducting an inquiry into the allegations, the police had lodged an FIR against the senior Sri Lankan Airlines colleague named in her complaint, the plea said.

She has also alleged in her petition that as she refused to withdraw the police complaint, she was transferred to Bangalore from Kochi.

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