Supreme Court Directs States/UTs to Appoint District Officers Under POSH Act

Supreme Court Law Insider

LI Network

Published on: October 20, 2023 at 11:17 IST

The Supreme Court has issued a series of directives to the Union government and all State/UT governments, aimed at ensuring the effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 (POSH Act) along with its accompanying Rules.

A pivotal direction mandated by the Court requires the appointment of a “District Officer” by States and Union Territories, as per Section 5 of the Act.

While Section 5 allows for the notification of a District Magistrate, Additional District Magistrate, or Collector as a District Officer, the Court emphasized that this should be treated as a mandatory requirement.

The Court observed that treating Section 5 as non-mandatory would compromise the structured workflow and redressal mechanism of the Act, rendering it ineffective.

The directives were issued in response to a writ petition filed by the ‘Initiatives For Inclusion Foundation,’ which sought the efficient implementation of the POSH Act.

Notably, a previous bench of the Supreme Court had also issued directions to strengthen the implementation of the POSH Act in the case of Aureliano Fernandes v. State of Goa & Ors.

These directions specifically involved National Legal Services Authorities (NALSA), State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs), and judicial academies in developing modules for workshops and awareness programs.

The role of the District Officer is significant as they are responsible for various aspects of the Act’s implementation. They are required to designate nodal officers and establish local committees in different areas.

The Court emphasized that the District Officer plays a pivotal role in the coordination and accountability of the POSH Act.

The failure of many states to notify District Officers, and the lack of documentation on the constitution of local committees, were noted by the Court. It stressed the importance of these appointments for the effective functioning of the Act.

To rectify this, the Court issued several directives, including the appointment of District Officers by the State/UT governments, the designation of nodal officers and the constitution of local committees. Efforts should be made to train and sensitize District Officers, nodal officers, and local committees about the Act’s provisions and their responsibilities.

The Court also called for awareness efforts to make local committees more accessible, particularly for the unorganized sector, and recommended training and capacity-building programs.

In addition, the Court directed that financial resources be allocated for developing educational, communication, and training materials for public awareness about the Act.

The Supreme Court’s directives aim to strengthen the implementation of the POSH Act, ensuring that it fulfills its intended purpose of preventing and addressing sexual harassment in the workplace.

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