Sexual harassment act: 8 months on, govt yet to act on law

Sexual HarassmentSexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act continues to remain of papers only. (PTI)

It took the Centre over 16 years to translate the Supreme Court's landmark judgment in the Vishakha case into a legislation, with the parliament finally passing the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 in February this year. The government, incidentally, was forced to get the legislation passed due to public clamour and pressure from activists following the December 16, 2012 gangrape of a girl in a moving bus in Delhi.

Over eight months later, the law remains on paper only, as the Ministry of Women and Child Development (WCD) has failed to get it notified although it received the President's assent on April 23.

But, within hours of a young woman journalist working in Tehelka accusing its founder and editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal of assaulting her earlier this month, the ministry woke up and tried to speed up the matter.

On November 21, WCD Secretary Nita Chowdhary wrote to the Union Ministry of Law and Justice, saying that the rules framed by the ministry to give effect to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, should be cleared.

But when her letter reached the Legislative Department of the Law Ministry the next day, it came to light that it was Chowdhary's own ministry that was sitting on the draft rules. Legislative Secretary P K Malhotra wrote to her the same day that the matter was pending with her officers.

"No reference is pending with us. The WCD officials had earlier discussed the draft rules with our officers but a final draft has still not come to us. We will clear is as soon as it reaches us," Malhotra told The Indian Express.

While a gazette notification in Part II Section II is required to frame a timeline for implementation of a new legislation, the rules, issued once the legislation is notified, govern the procedure by which the legislation is enforced. They are also required to ensure uniformity of enforcement of the new or amended law.

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