The Supreme Court has set up a committee to look into complaints of sexual harassment within its precincts. The decks were cleared for the formation of the Gender Sensitisation and Internal Complaints Committee after the government issued the relevant notification, enforcing Gender Sensitisation and Sexual Harassment of Women at the Supreme Court of India (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Regulations, 2013. The notification says that the “aggrieved woman” would mean “any female, of any age, whether employed or not, who claims to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment by any person in the Supreme Court of India precincts, but does not include any female who is already governed by the Supreme Court service regulations”.
The committee, to be set up by the Chief Justice of India, would have minimum of seven and maximum of 13 members. It will have one or two apex court judges as members and a majority of its members would be women. One of the two judges would head the committee. The gazette notification says that “it is necessary to provide for gender sensitization in working environment and protection against sexual harassment of women at the Supreme Court precincts and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto”. “Supreme Court of India precincts”, the notification says, means the “whole premises of the Supreme Court including the court block, open grounds, parking, old and new chamber blocks, libraries, canteens, bar (association) rooms, and health centres and/or any other part of the premises under the control of the Hon’ble Chief Justice of India”. The notification was issued on the apex court recommendations – based on the guidelines framed by a seven-member committee headed by eminent counsel Fali Nariman, and comprising senior counsel Anand Grover, Indu Malhotra, Vibha Dutta Makhija, Binu Tamta, Meenakshi Arora and Asha Menon. In the wake of its 1997 judgment spelling out guidelines for the protection of women from sexual harassment at their work place, there was such a redressal mechanism for the women staffers of the apex court but it kept the lawyers, their ladies staffers, women clients and others women visiting the top court out of its purview. However, now with the setting up of the committee, all women visiting the Supreme Court have a forum to complain if they suffer any sexual harassment from anyone within its precincts.