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Undercover tease-busters

New Delhi, Nov. 30: The Supreme Court today directed all states and Union territories to post plainclothes policewomen at bus stops, parks, malls, theatres and other public places to curb “eve-teasing”, terming the menace a violation of victims’ constitutional rights.

It also placed a “responsibility” on passers-by to report “eve-teasing” — an umbrella term for offences ranging from lewd remarks to physical harassment — to the nearest police station or a women’s helpline.

“Eve-teasing today has become a pernicious, horrid and disgusting practice.... Before undertaking suitable legislation to curb eve-teasing, it is necessary to take at least some urgent measures so that it can be curtailed to some extent,” the court said. It issued these directions:

Plainclothes women officers must be deployed at “bus stands and stops, railway stations, metro stations, cinema theatres, shopping malls, parks, beaches, public service vehicles, places of worship, etc”;

States and Union territories must establish women’s helplines in cities and towns within three months;

CCTVs must be installed at strategic positions;

Those in charge of educational institutions, places of worship, cinemas and the like should take steps to prevent such harassment and, on receiving complaints, pass them on to the police or “women’s help centre”;

Boards cautioning against such harassment should be put up at all public places including educational institutions;

District collectors and superintendents of police should be told to take steps to curb the menace.

“Eve-teasing generally occurs in public places which, with a little effort, can be effectively curbed. Consequences of not curbing such a menace, needless to say, are at times disastrous,” the court said, ruing the absence of a uniform law to curb the menace.

“There are many instances where girls of young age are being harassed, which sometimes may lead to serious psychological problems and even... suicide.”

The court noted that Parliament was considering a bill against sexual harassment at the workplace but added that its provisions “are not sufficient to curb eve-teasing”.

It added that such harassment violates rights guaranteed under Article 21 (right to live with dignity and honour), Article 14 (equality) and Article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on grounds of gender, caste and the like) of the Constitution.

The bench of Justices K.S. Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra upheld an appeal by Tamil Nadu against a Madras High Court order that quashed the sacking of a police constable for sexually harassing a woman at a bus stop.

The high court had cited the constable’s acquittal in a criminal trial but the apex court said the standard of proof required of departmental disciplinary proceedings was “entirely different” from that required of a court for criminal conviction.


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