HC turns into PIL plea for Vishaka norms in aviation sector

New Delhi: Delhi High Court today converted into a PIL the plea of a Sri Lankan Airline employee alleging that the central and city governments have failed to implement Vishaka guidelines to deal with cases of sexual harassment against women in the aviation industry.

Justice Valmiki J Mehta turned the matter into a PIL saying the prayers in the petition regarding implementation of the provisions to deal with sexual harassment at workplace are of a public nature and transferred it to the Chief Justice who would list it before the appropriate bench on March 18.

The court passed the order after also observing that the issues relating to the "personal rights" of the petitioner employee have been dealt with by a committee.

The order came on the plea of an Indian woman, employed with Sri Lankan Airlines, against the Ministries of Civil Aviation and Women and Child Development as well as Delhi government, the airline and its official against whom she levelled allegations of sexual harassment.

The petition had also alleged that Vishaka guidelines have not been implemented by Sri Lankan Airlines Ltd or by Delhi government which should have constituted a local committee to hear plaints of sexual harassment at workplaces.

Meanwhile, Delhi government informed the court that it has issued letters to all its departments to replace the departmental complaint committees with internal complaint committees as per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and redressal) Act.

It also said that a communication has been sent to Civil Aviation Ministry to direct all airlines operating from here to constitute internal complaints committee as per the Act.

The central government, represented by advocate Anil Soni, informed the court that six airlines which fell under their jurisdiction were complying Vishaka guidelines and the Act. A compliance report from AirAsia India is awaited, he said.

On November 12 last year, the court had pulled up the Centre and the city government over their failure to implement Vishaka guidelines on dealing with cases of sexual harassment against women in aviation industry here.

The petitioner, a sales executive in the foreign airline, in her petition filed through advocate Ajay Verma, had alleged that her complaint of sexual harassment against a senior colleague, a Sri Lankan, has been pending since 2009 and the airline has not taken any action against him.

After the woman moved the High Court, the complaints committee was set up in Delhi specifically to deal with her complaint. Her petition had sought a direction to government to ensure implementation of Vishaka guidelines as well as provisions of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act in all airlines which fell under the jurisdiction of the Civil Aviation Ministry.

It had said the woman was transferred to Kochi from Delhi as she had filed a complaint against the senior official. The woman had in her petition also alleged that in 2013 when she had enquired about the status of her complaint, she was informed that it was now a closed subject.

Thereafter, she had got in touch with the National Commission for Women which sent a letter to the Delhi Police Commissioner to look into the matter, the petition had said. Subsequently, after conducting an inquiry into the allegations, the police had lodged an FIR against the senior Sri Lankan Airlines colleague named in her complaint, the plea had said.

She had also alleged in her petition that as she refused to withdraw the police complaint, she was transferred to Bangalore from Kochi.

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