The Meghalaya government will now have to appointment of district officers under the provisions of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
The Supreme Court on October 19 has directed the Women and Child Welfare Department in every state and Union Territory to ensure appointment of district officers under the anti-sexual harassment law within a period of four weeks.
A bench of Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Dipankar Datta was considering a plea filed by Initiatives For Inclusion Foundation, seeking directions for implementation of the provisions of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
“The concerned Principal Secretary of the State/UT Ministry of Women and Child (or any other Department…, will personally ensure appointment of a district officer in each district within their territorial jurisdiction,” the bench ordered.
It said that the role of the District Officer is “pivotal” in the implementation of the Act.
The Supreme Court ordered that the matter will be listed in the first week of February 2024, for further compliance.
The Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act mandates each employer to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and for those workplaces which employ less than ten workers or where the employer themselves are the respondent, the Act provides for a Local Complaints Committee in each district to be constituted by District Officer.
The Act provides that the appropriate government may notify a District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate or the Collector or Deputy Collector as a District Officer for every District.
The Supreme Court held that the term ‘may’ should not be construed as discretionary, else the efficacy of the anti-sexual harassment legislation will “fall flat”.
Further, the top court said that “even those states that have taken action have simply notified a specific post as District Officer, without providing any specific details of the officers, their contact information, etc.”