Set up anti-sexual harassment panels in all courts: SC to HCs
New Delhi, May 11: In a significant direction, the Supreme Court today directed the heads of all high courts to set up anti-sexual harassment committees in all courts across the country within two months in accordance with a 2013 law.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Dipak Misra also asked the Registrars General of the High Courts to file a compliance report regarding setting up of these committees in courts, where it has not been constituted so far, by July 15.
“As far as the question of constitution of such committee(s) in other High Courts/ District Courts throughout the country is concerned, the Chief Justices of each of the High Courts are requested to constitute the Committees in High Courts as well as the District Courts, if not already constituted, within a span of two months,” the bench, also comprising Justices A M Khanwilkar and D Y Chandrachud, said.
The directions came on a petition filed by a woman advocate who had alleged that she was assaulted by some lawyers observing a strike at the Tis Hazari district court complex here.
The bench asked its Registry to communicate the order to the Registrars General of each High Court for necessary action by the Chief Justice or the Acting Chief Justice.
“The Registrars General of the High Courts shall send a Compliance Report with regard to constitution of the Committee(s) in the High Courts and/or the District Courts on or before 15th July 2018. Let it be made clear, if the Compliance Report is not filed within the said time, the matter shall be listed before the Court suo motu …,” it said.
The court also directed the Acting Chief Justice of the Delhi High Court to set up the anti-sexual harassment committee in all courts in the capital as per the mandate of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, with “quite promptitude”.
The court, which had earlier granted protection to the woman lawyer, today tried to mediate the dispute between her and the bar members of Tis Hazari district courts. Cross-FIRs have been lodged by the woman lawyer and the accused advocate against each other at the Subzi Mandi police station here.
The bench later went on to pass the slew of directions in the case.
Transferring the probe into the cross cases, the bench said, “an officer of the rank of Assistant Commissioner of Police (ACP), Crime Branch, New Delhi shall investigate both the FIRs.
“In both the FIRs, though lodged at P.S. Subzi Mandi, Delhi, if eventually chargesheets are filed and trial is held, for all purposes it shall be at Patiala House Courts, New Delhi,” it said, adding that the lawyers named as accused in both FIRs shall not be arrested.
“When we say that they shall not be arrested, it is requisite that neither of the parties shall create any kind of acrimonious atmosphere or tamper with the witnesses or any evidence which is likely to be brought on record. They shall also cooperate in the investigation,” it said.
There shall be a fair trial and none of the parties or any member of the Bar shall create any obstruction in the judicial proceedings, it said.
“Needless to say, our observations will not debar the parties to enter into a settlement, if they so desire and they will also be at liberty to challenge any order passed by the concerned Court or even take such steps for seeking quashing of the FIRs…,” it said.
It also allowed the woman lawyer to approach the ACP, Crime Branch in case of apprehension to her security, and the police officer, “if satisfied, shall make arrangement for her security”.