The Supreme Court on Thursday directed the Women and Child 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 Justices S. Ravindra Bhat and Dipankar Datta was considering a plea filed by NGO 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.
The POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) Act mandates each employer to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and for those workplaces which employ less than 10 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’ not be construed as discretionary, else the efficacy of the anti-sexual harassment legislation will “fall flat”.
“District Officers were in most states notified after notice of this writ petition was served on them, and even among those states that have taken action – they have simply notified a specific post as District Officer, without providing any specific details of the officers, their contact information, etc.”
The Supreme Court ordered that the matter will be listed in the first week of February 2024, for further compliance.