Existing laws in India which can be used in cases of sexual harassment
Existing laws in India which can be used in cases of sexual harassment Amendments to the laws on sexual violence enacted in the last two decades have failed to cover sexual harassment. The following inadequate provisions in the IPC and labour laws continue to be used:
I. Indian Penal Code
Section 209, IPC - Obscene acts and songs - Whoever, to the annoyance of others: a) does any obscene act in any public place or
b) sings, recites or utters any obscene song, ballad or words in or near any public place
shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three months or with fine or both. (Cognisable, bailable and triable offense) Section 354, IPC - Assault or criminal force to a woman with the intent to outrage her modesty - whoever assaults or uses criminal force to any woman, intending to outrage or knowing it to be likely that he will thereby outrage her modesty, shall be punished with imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to two years, or with fine or both. Section 509, IPC - Word, gesture or act intended to insult the modesty of a woman - whoever intending to insult the modesty of any woman utters any word, makes any sound or gesture, or exhibits any object intending that such word or sound shall be heard, or that such gesture or object shall be seen by such woman, or intrudes upon the privacy of such woman, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, or with fine, or both. (Cognisable and bailable offense) Industrial Disputes Act
Rule 5 Schedule 5 - Cases can (and have been) argued on the basis of unfair labour practices listed in this schedule. Such cases can be filed if an employee suffers unfair dismissal or denial of employment benefits as a consequence of the rejection of sexual advances. However, this would only be applicable in quid pro quo cases.
Shehnaz Mudbhatkal vs Saudi Arabian Airlines - Shehnaz was subjected to sexual harassment by her boss in 1985, and dismissed when she complained to higher authorities. Her case was won in 1996 when the Bombay labour court judged it to have been a case of unfair dismissal under the Industrial Disputes Act. It ordered her re-instatement with full back payment, perks and promotions.
Civil suit - can be filed for damages under tort laws. That is, the basis for filing the case would be mental anguish, physical harassment, loss of income and employment caused by the sexual harassment.
The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act (1987)
Although it is not known to have been used in cases of sexual harassment, the provisions of this act have the potential to be used in two ways. First, if an individual harasses another with books, photographs, paintings, films, pamphlets, packages, etc. containing 'indecent representation of women'; they are liable for a minimum sentence of two years.
Second, a 'hostile working environment' type of argument can be made under this act. Section 7 (Offences by Companies) - holds companies where there has been 'indecent representation of women' (such as the display of pornography) on the premises guilty of offenses under this act. (Cognisable, bailable offense; with a minimum sentence of two years)
The Delhi Prohibition of Eveteasing Bill, 1994
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