SC Refers to the Lack of Sexual Harassment Committees in Sports Federations, Issues Directions for Implementation of the POSH Act

In an order dated May 12, 2023, the Supreme Court, in the case of Aureliano Fernandes vs. State of Goa and Others (CA No.2482 of 2014), took note of the “serious lapses” in the enforcement of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 and issued directions for its implementation.

In 2009, allegations of sexual harassment were levelled against the appellant, the Head of Goa University’s Political Science Department. Based on the inquiry conducted, the Standing Committee for Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Work Place submitted its report holding the appellant to be guilty of sexual harassment and recommended termination of his services. Accordingly, he was dismissed and disqualified from future employment.

The present appeal has been filed challenging the Bombay High Court’s judgment, setting aside the appellant’s writ petition.

The division bench of Justice A S Bopanna and Justice Hima Kohli drew attention to the survey conducted by a National daily newspaper which revealed that 16 out of 30 national sports federations in the country do not have a duly constituted Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) as per the Act and if ICC is present, it does not have the stipulated number of members or lacks the mandatory external member.

The court observed that this “is indeed a sorry state of affairs and reflects poorly on all the State functionaries, public authorities, private undertakings, organisations and institutions that are duty bound to implement the PoSH Act in letter and spirit”.

Finally, the court directed the Union of India, all State Governments and Union Territories to undertake a timebound exercise to verify whether all the concerned Ministries, Departments, Government organisations, etc., have duly constituted Internal Complaints Committees, Local Committees or Internal Committees as per provisions of the Act. Further, the Union of India and all States or UTs have been directed to file affidavits within eight weeks from the date of the order.