Under the directive of Chief Justice of India (CJI) DY Chandrachud, the Supreme Court has reached out to the Allahabad High Court for an update on complaints filed by a female judicial officer accusing a District Judge of sexual harassment.

The Supreme Court set an immediate deadline for the High Court to furnish all relevant information regarding the complaints. Last night, the Secretary General of the Supreme Court was informed via phone that the acting Chief Justice of the High Court has taken notice of the open letter submitted by the judge from Uttar Pradesh.

The judicial officer had penned an open letter to the CJI, expressing her desire to end her life, citing instances of alleged sexual harassment by a District Judge and his associates. Despite reporting the harassment to the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court, she claimed that no action had been taken.

She further detailed her frustration with the internal complaints committee of the High Court, stating that although an inquiry was initiated after six months, she considered it a farce due to the involvement of witnesses who were direct subordinates of the accused District Judge.

Having moved the Supreme Court on December 13, seeking a fair investigation into the matter, her plea was dismissed by a bench led by Justice Hrishikesh Roy. She expressed her deep sense of personal humiliation and disregard for her dignity following the dismissal.

In India, laws concerning sexual harassment primarily revolve around the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013. This legislation aims to create a safe and secure working environment for women by prohibiting and preventing sexual harassment at workplaces. Here are the key elements of the law:

### Sexual Harassment Definition:

The Act defines sexual harassment broadly, encompassing unwelcome physical contact, sexually coloured remarks, displaying pornography, making sexually explicit remarks, demanding sexual favours, or any other unwelcome physical, verbal, or non-verbal conduct of a sexual nature.

Workplace Coverage:

The law applies to all workplaces, including government and private sectors, organizations, corporations, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and unorganized sectors. It covers women, irrespective of their employment status – permanent, temporary, contractual, or even apprentices and volunteers.

Employer Responsibilities:

Employers are obligated to provide a safe working environment free from sexual harassment. They must constitute Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs) at workplaces with 10 or more employees to handle complaints. Smaller workplaces can approach Local Complaints Committees (LCCs) formed by District Officers.

Complaint Procedure:

The law mandates a specific complaint mechanism. Any aggrieved woman can file a written complaint of sexual harassment to the ICC or LCC within three months of the incident. The committee is then obligated to conduct an inquiry into the matter within a stipulated timeframe.

Confidentiality and Prohibition of Retaliation:

The law ensures confidentiality throughout the complaint process, safeguarding the identity of the complainant, witnesses, and the accused. It also prohibits any retaliatory action against the complainant for reporting an incident of sexual harassment.

Redressal and Penalties:

If the committee finds the accused guilty of sexual harassment, they may recommend actions such as warnings, apologies, transfer of the accused, or termination of employment. Additionally, the law stipulates penalties for non-compliance with the Act’s provisions.

In this ongoing development, the Supreme Court’s inquiry into the complaints by the female judicial officer against the District Judge highlights the critical need for a fair and just investigation into allegations of sexual harassment within the judicial system.

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