Vishaka & Ors. VS State of Rajasthan. (1997)6 SCC 241


CITATION:  (1997) 6 SCC 241  
BENCH/JUDGES:  Chief justice J.S. Verma, Justice Sujata V. Manohar and Justice B.N. Kirpal.  


The case is of the year 1997, were a petition was filed in  Supreme Court by group of Women called ‘Vishaka’  Regarding Sexual Harassment with one of their member of group named Bhanwari Devi,  at work place. It was been heard by a bench of chief justice  J.S. Verma, Justice Sujata Manohar and justice B.N. Kirpal. The case is an one of the landmark judgement in India, as it states the guidelines for sexual harassment at work place. Before 1997, there  were no formal guidelines, which dealt with sexual harassment at work place.

Background :

 Bhanwari Devi was a social worker who worked for Women Development Project (WDP) in Bhateri, Rajasthan. As a part of her job, she took up a campaign against Child marriage. The campaign was to make villagers aware about the fact that child marriage is illegal.

In the meantime, a person name Ram Karan Grujar had arranged marriage of her infant daughter. Bhanwari Devi had tried to stop the marriage with the help of police, but was unable to stop the marriage. This action, led to boycotting her and family from village and she also lost her job.

Facts of the case:

On 22nd September,1992, five men: Ram sukh Gujjar, Gyarsa Gujjar, Ram Karan Gujjar, Badri Gujjar and Shravan Sharma, in seek of vengeance attacked Bhanwari Devis husband and later brutally raped her.

Police tried to avoid the complaint but bhanwari devi, managed to lodge complaint. Due to lack of evidence and with political support, all the accused were discharged in trial court.

Further, PIL was filed by a group of women rights  activist group known as ‘Vishaka’. It laid its focus  on fundamental right enforcement of women at work place under provision Article 14,15,19,and 21 of Indian Constitution.

Issues Raised :

  1. Whether sexual harassment at the Workplace amounts to a violation of Rights of Gender Inequality and Right to Life and Liberty?
  2. Whether the court could apply international laws in the absence of applicable measures under the existing?
  3. Whether the employer has any responsibility when sexual harassment is done to/by its employees?


  • Petitioners arguments

A writ petition  was filed by the ‘Vishaka’ group which comprised of various women’s rights activists, NGOs, and other social activists. They put forward their argument that the indecent  of sexual harassment of women at Workplace violate the fundamental rights enshrined under Article14, 15, 19(1)(g) and 21 of the Constitution of India. The petitioners brought the attention of the Hon’ble court to the loophole that the legislation has regarding the provision of a safe working environment for women. They requested the Hon’ble Court to frame guidelines for preventing sexual harassment at Workplace.

  • Respondent’s arguments

The learned Solicitor General appearing on behalf of the respondents (with their consent) in this case supported the petitioners. The respondent assisted the Hon’ble court in figuring out an effective method to curb sexual harassment and in structuring the guidelines for the prevention of the same. Fali S. Nariman – the amicus curiae of the Hon’ble court along with Ms. Naina Kapur and Ms. Meenakshi provided assistance to the Hon’ble court in dealing with the said case.

Provisions Related:

  •  Article 14 in The Constitution Of India 1949

 Equality before law The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth

  •  Article 15 in The Constitution Of India 1949

 Prohibition of discrimination on grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth

  1. The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them
  2. No citizen shall, on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or any of them, be subject to any disability, liability, restriction or condition with regard to
    1. access to shops, public restaurants, hotels and palaces of public entertainment; or
    2. the use of wells, tanks, bathing ghats, roads and places of public resort maintained wholly or partly out of State funds or dedicated to the use of the general public
  3. Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for women and children
  4. Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes

 Article 19(1)(g) in The Constitution Of India 1949

 to practice any profession, or to carry on any occupation, trade or business

 Article 21 in The Constitution Of India 1949

 Protection of life and personal liberty No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law


According to The Hon’ble Supreme Court, whenever there is any case of sexual harassment than section 354 and 354A of IPC is refered but the provisions are not specific to issues in hand. This made supreme court realize that there is a lack of proper effective legislations for sexual harassment.

The Hon’ble supreme  court took reference of international convention to proceed with the case. Court refered to Beijing Statement of Principles and Independence of Judiciary in LAWASIA region which was signed by the Chief Justice off the Asia Pacific in 1995 as those representing the minimum standards necessary to be observed in maintain an independent and effective Judiciary.

The court also  found the following as source of the guidelines which would act as law of the land:

Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women (Article 11 & 24). General recommendations of CEDAW in this context (Article 11,22,23,24).

At the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing,  India made an official commitment to set up a National Commission at every level and in every sector that will look after Women’s Rights.

Further, court also framed guidelines for sexual harassment at workplace , which should be considered law under Article 141 of Indian constitution and the guidelines  are known as “Vishaka Guidelines”.

The Vishaka guidelines (1997) 

EMPLOYER’S OR OTHER EQUIVALENT AUTHORITY’S DUTY– Employer or other responsible persons are bound to preclude such indecent incidents of sexual harassment from happening. In case such an act takes place, then the organization must consist of a mechanism to provide prosecutorial and conciliatory remedies.

DEFINITION – For this purpose “Sexual Harassment” means disagreeable sexually determined behavior direct or indirect as-

Physical contact and advances;

A demand or request for sexual favours;

Sexually coloured remarks;

Showing pornography;

Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.

MEASURES FOR PREVENTION:  Employers or persons in charge of the workplace must take preventive measures such as an express prohibition of sexual harassment in the form of notifications or circulars, penalties by the government against the offender, appropriate work conditions in respect of hygiene, health and leisure.

PROCEEDINGS IN CASE OF MISCONDUCT:  If the offenses committed are the ones that fall under the purview of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, then the employer is bound to take prosecutorial action by complaining to the appropriate authority.

APPROPRIATE DISCIPLINARY ACTION:  If there is an occurrence of the violation of service rules, appropriate disciplinary action must be taken.

REDRESSAL MECHANISM:  An organization must have a redressal mechanism to address the complaints. This must be irrespective of the fact that whether the act constitutes an offense under the Indian Penal Code, 1860, or any other law as such.

REDRESSAL COMMITTEE: Such a redressal mechanism or more precisely such a complaint committee must have women as more than half of its members and its head must be a woman. The committee must comprise of a counseling facility. It is also acceptable to collaborate with NGOs or any such organisations which are well aware of such issues. A report must be sent to the government annually on the development of the issues being dealt by the committee.

SPREADING AWARENESS: To raise sexual harassment issues, employer-employee meetings must be held. The employer must take appropriate actions/measures to spread awareness on the said issue.


the case is one of the landmark judgement of india which have created history . By stating the Vishaka Guidelines, judiciary has created a safety regulation for women at workplace. The court understanding the importance of matter, breaking all the barriers of restriction of the constitution and framed the guidelines and proves that nobody is free to perform such heinous crimes and is strictly punishable for such harsh crimes.

Vishaka Guidelines are the source for the establishment of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace(prevention, prohibition and redressal) Act,2013.

The case is the true example that have inspired the women to raise their voice against any heinous crime and offences against them.


Leave a Reply