Section 19(b) of the POSH Act

Court Directs Compliance of Section 19(b) of the POSH Act: Displaying Penal Consequences for Sexual Harassment in the Workplace

Facts: Biyat Pragya Tripathy vs Government of Odisha & Others is a public interest litigation filed seeking implementation of Section 19(b) of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, before the bench consisting of Chief Justice Subhasis Talapatra and Justice Savitri Ratho.

“Section 19 (b) display at any conspicuous place in the workplace, the penal consequences of sexual harassments; and the order constituting, the Internal Committee under sub-section (1) of section 4”

Arguments: Respondents 3 and 4 argued that despite his efforts instruction from the opposite party couldn’t be obtained with respect to compliance. The advocate for Respondents 1 and 2 argued that the authorities were actively involved in complying with the mandate but due to a lack of intra-departmental coordination, the mandate could not be fully complied with so far.

The Petitioner stated that the court had directed government officers and other authorities to implement the mandate of S. 19(b) and file a compliance affidavit, however, no substantial progress was made. The government had adopted a casual approach in its implementation. Further, “this action was essential to build up the congenial environment at workplaces for the women who are harassed sexually often times by various conducts in the workplaces. Nobody would dissent in accepting that for an equal society and safe society, dignity and safety of the women have to be given priority.”

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The Respondent stated that if the direction is passed by this court, all authorities who are in control of the public places shall put up the billboard displaying the penal consequences of sexual harassment and complete the process of constituting the internal committees under S. 4(1) of the Act.

Decision: The court directed all authorities under the Central Government and State Government to comply with the direction of S. 19(b) of the POSH Act. The authorities have to place a billboard showing the penal consequences of sexual harassment, etc. In the billboard, a toll-free telephone number and committed phone number be provided so that whenever or wherever the woman perceives a threat of sexual harassment or fear of violation of dignity in any manner, she can immediately report for her protection and for taking action against the incalcitrants. It fixed the date for implementation of the direction as three months from the date of the order.

Further, it relied on S. 2(o) to state that the workplace takes in its fold all the places where women are to be for different purposes of their social and individual lives.

-By Lakshita Bhati

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