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Cry to create anti-harass cell at district collectorate

- Human rights outfit demands Vishakha panel to protect working women from sexual predators

A city-based human rights outfit has launched a stir to demand implementation of Vishaka Guidelines — a 1997 Supreme Court ruling aimed to prevent sexual harassment at workplaces — at all offices, starting with the district collectorate.

Around 13 members of Jharkhand Human Rights Conference on Tuesday staged a 40-minute protest at the district collectorate.

Later, they submitted a petition addressed to East Singhbhum deputy commissioner Amitabh Kaushal at the latter’s office. Protesters could not meet Kaushal as he was in a meeting.

“It is ironic the Supreme Court directive is not being followed at the administrative offices in the district collectorate here,” said the human rights outfit president Manoj Mishra.

“The district administration has not set up a committee to look into such cases even after 13 years of the apex court ruling. We demand the administration should take immediate steps to set up such a panel and ensure that the directive is executed properly in government, PSUs and private firms,” he added.

Mishra added that rising number of complaints related to sexual harassment in government offices had spurred them to take up the matter.

“We are receiving a large number of complaints at our human rights court (a forum providing legal aid to the needy) in Bhuiyandih ever since its inauguration in December. So far, we have been receiving some 30-40 cases of sexual harassment at city workplaces every month,” he added.

Protesters said they would meet the deputy commissioner after a fortnight.

If Vishaka Guidelines were not implemented at the district collectorate offices within a stipulated deadline, they would seek legal recourse, they added.

“We understand the district administration is tied up with Lok Sabha election work now. We will meet the deputy commissioner after May 16 (results) and seek a deadline for forming the complaint committee. If we do not get a proper reply, we will protest and file a PIL at Jharkhand High Court for contempt of Supreme Court verdict,” said Mishra.

East Singhbhum deputy commissioner Amitabh Kaushal admitted that no such committee existed at the district collectorate.

“I will check into the provisions for constituting such a committee and only then comment on it,” said the deputy commissioner.

As per the Supreme Court verdict passed in a 1997 case of Vishaka vs state of Rajasthan, every organisation must form constitute a committee to address cases of sexual harassment at the workplace.

The ruling recommends that such a committee involve an outfit to prevent possibility of undue pressure or influence from senior levels.