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HC seeks Centre, Bar Council's replies on plea to ensure safe work environment for women advocates

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: April 4, 2019  | 18:53 IST

New Delhi, Apr 4 (PTI) The Delhi High Court has sought responses of the Centre and the Bar Council of India (BCI) on a plea alleging "failure" of bar associations here in providing a safe work environment to women lawyers. A bench of Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice A J Bhambhani also sought responses of the Bar Council of Delhi (BCD) and bar associations of the Delhi High Court and all the district courts here on the petition filed by an NGO. The court listed the matter for further hearing on August 30. The NGO, Art of Learning Foundation, said it has approached the court in the wake of continuing incidents of sexual harassment against women which are taking place in courts or chamber block premises. The plea, filed through NGO's secretary and lawyer Kaadambari Puri, sought a direction to the bar councils and associations to "formulate suitable guidelines or regulations for ensuring safety and security of women advocates and interns within the precincts of the respective courts that they are seized of". It claimed that BCI and BCD, being the statutory organisations responsible for regulating the general body of lawyers, have not taken the basic steps to constitute internal committees to look into the cases of sexual harassment of women lawyers. The plea sought direction to BCI and BCD to take immediate steps for implementing the relevant provisions of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, read with regulations formed under the 'Gender Sensitization & Sexual Harassment Of Women At The Supreme Court Of India (Prevention, Prohibition And Redressal) Regulations, 2013'. The plea referred to various sexual harassment incidents, including the one that took place on July 14 last year when a woman lawyer was allegedly raped by another advocate in his chamber in the Saket court post working hours. The accused was said to be in an inebriated condition. It mentioned how the women lawyers face various forms of sexual misconduct in the court premises, including "being observed discussed by male lawyers, as to their dress, mannerisms, relationships, sexual gossips and comments by male lawyers". It also referred to another incident of April last year, where a woman accused a 60-year-old advocate of raping her in the Rohini district court here. "Direct all the respondents to conduct gender sensitisation and sexual harassment at workplace workshops at regular intervals. "Direct the respondents to draft and notify its rules for prevention of sexual harassment in court premises, with effective punishment powers. Enforce the same at all subordinate courts and chamber premises, for determination of such matters," the petition prayed. The plea sought that the bar associations should provide necessary assistance to the aggrieved women and they be directed to provide stringent punishment and measures which shall act as a deterrent in the offence. It also said bar councils and associations be directed to monitor the effective implementation of the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act. PTI SKV HMP KJ

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