New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday directed the states to take stringent measures to curb sexual harassment of women. Slamming the laws governing sexual violence in the country as woefully inadequate, the apex court asked the states to deploy policewomen in plain clothes in large numbers at public places such as bus stands, cinema halls, metro stations and railway stations.
Terming the consequences of eve-teasing as "disastrous," the Supreme Court issued a slew of guidelines to curb the menace. "All the state governments and Union territories are directed to depute plain-clothes female police officers in the precincts of bus stands, railway stations, metro stations, cinema theatres, shopping malls, parks, beaches, public service vehicles, places of worship etc so as to monitor and supervise incidents of eve-teasing," a bench of justices KS Radhakrishnan and Dipak Misra said.
The court said the guidelines were necessary as there is "no uniform law" to deal with the menace. "We notice that there is no uniform law in this country to curb eve-teasing effectively in or within the precincts of educational institutions, places of worship, bus stands, metro-stations, railway stations, cinema theatres, parks, beaches, places of festival, public service vehicles or any other similar place," the bench said.
The court, in its 26-page judgement, said the menace of sexual harassment and molestation can be effectively curbed with a little effort and if unchecked, its consequences could be "disastrous" as like sexual harassment, eve-teasing amounts to violation of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.
"Consequences of not curbing such a menace, needless to say, are at times disastrous. There are many instances where girls of young age are being harassed, which sometimes may lead to serious psychological problems and even committing suicide.
"Every citizen in this country has the right to live with dignity and honour which is a fundamental right guaranteed under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Sexual harassment like eve teasing amounts to violation of rights guaranteed under Articles 14, 15 as well," it said.
The apex court laid down the guidelines in the judgement by which it set aside a verdict of the Madras High Court. The high court had set aside the judgement of a Central Administrative Tribunal upholding the dismissal of policeman S Samuthiram who had misbehaved with a married woman at about 11.00 pm on July 9, 1999 at Tenkasi bus stand in Tiruneveli in a drunken state.
The court said, "The necessity of a proper legislation to curb eve-teasing is of extreme importance, even the Tamil Nadu Legislation (on the menace) has no teeth." "The experiences of women and girl children in over-crowded buses, metros, trains etc are horrendous and a painful ordeal. 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," it said while issuing various directions on the issue.
The state government and the Union territories will have to install CCTV in strategic positions which itself would be a deterrent and if detected, the offender could be caught, it said.
"Persons in-charge of educational institutions, places of worship, cinema theatres, railway stations, bus stands have to take steps as they deem fit to prevent eve-teasing, within their precincts and, on a complaint being made, they must pass on the information to the nearest police station or the women's help centre," it added.
If the offence is committed in a commercial vehicle, then it would be required that a police complaint be lodged by the person in charge of the vehicle or otherwise, it would lead to cancellation of the permit to ply, it said.
"State governments and Union Territories are directed to establish Women Helpline in various cities and towns, so as to curb eve teasing within three months," it said. Suitable sign boards, cautioning such act of eve-teasing, be exhibited in all public places, it said, adding that "responsibility is also on the passers-by and on noticing such incident, they should also report the same to the nearest police station or to Women Helpline to save the victims from such crimes."
With additional information from PTI