February 21, 2020
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She Will Be Protected

An intern has the protection of the law against a sitting or retired judge and against the Supreme Court of India as an institution

She Will Be Protected

On the 6th of April this year, the Supreme Court of India notified the Gender Sensitisation and Sexual Harassment of Women at the Supreme Court of India (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Regulations, 2013. No committee has been notified under these regulations to date.

It is not clear to me under what powers these regulations have been framed. The regulations are not stated to be framed under Article 145 or 146 of the Constitution of India. The regulations are purported to be iss­ued in writ petition (civil) No. 162 of 2013. Hence one can only conclude that the regulations are in the nature of a judgement of the Supreme Court of India.

According to the regulations, an ‘agg­rieved woman’ means “any female, of any age, whether employed or not, who claims to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment by any person on the Supreme Court precincts”. The precincts are def­ined as “the whole premises of the Supreme Court including the court block, open grounds, parking, old and new chamber blocks, libraries, canteen, bar-rooms, health centres and/or any other part of the premises under the control of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India”.

It is surprising that these regulations were not issued under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. If they were, they would have adopted the much broader definition of “workplace” under the 2013 Act, which in Section 2(o)(v) includes “any place visited by the employee arising out of or during the course of employment” and would therefore squarely cover an int­ern and any place related to her work, whether inside or outside the precincts of the Supreme Court of India.

Notwithstanding the regulations, an intern would still have the protection of the Act against a sitting or retired judge and against the Supreme Court of India as an institution for its failure to protect her from sexual harassment. The committee of three judges, which has been set up by the court to inquire into the current case, is appointed neither under the regulations, nor under the 2013 Act, nor under any judicial order.

Additional-Solicitor General of India Indira Jaising heads the women’s rights initiative at Lawyers Collective; E-mail your columnist: indirajaising AT gmail.com

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