The #MeToo campaign may have started a while back in the West, but it has taken in a big way in India now. It has given a lot of courage to young girls who have been facing sexual harassment at workplaces, be it in the organised or the unorganised sector. It has emboldened them to come forward and register their angst against the sexual harassment faced by them at their workplace as well as in the public domain.

Tanushree Dutta has shown tremendous courage by speaking against the sexual harassment which she has faced by Nana Patekar and others. She has stuck to her stand and now has even come forward and registered a written complaint in the Oshiwara Police Station. What is worrying is the silent role of Mumbai Police, which as per 154 CrPC should have taken cognizance of the statement made by Tanushree Dutta in the social world on different platforms and should have started the investigation. They haven’t only refused to act on the verbal statement of Tanushree Dutta, but even now they have not done anything on her written complaint. They have not registered the FIR which is totally disappointing.

Some Takeaways

  • The record of Mumbai Police when the accused are celebrities has been dismal.
  • Verma Commission wanted rape and other sexual offences against women and girls to be treated as a crime and not something to be ashamed of.
  • The Supreme Court needs to issue a Dikhta ensuring that internal complaints committee as prescribed under the Vishakha guidelines and the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013 will be set up.
  • The Supreme Court needs to clearly outline that Article 21 does not only mean right to life and right to live with dignity, but also encompasses a fundamental right of every girl and woman in this country to be free from the onslaught of sexual predators.

What is worrying is the silent role of Mumbai Police, which as per 154 CrPC should have taken cognizance of the statement made by Tanushree Dutta in the social world on different platforms and should have started the investigation.

The Police are scared to even call Nana Patekar to the police station to record his statement. This is a very clear case of sexual harassment. Section 354 of the IPC talks of assault of criminal force to woman with intent to outrage her modesty. The punishment prescribed is a term which shall not be less than one year, but which may extend up to five years as well as a fine. Section 354 is a cognizable non-bailable offence and what is shocking is that the Mumbai police has failed to act. The record of Mumbai Police when the accused are celebrities has been dismal. Be it in the Salman Khan hit-and-run case or Sheena Bora’s murder case. However, to Nana Patekar’s rescue comes Section 467 of the CrPC, which imposes a limitation period of three years for filing any complaint alleging offences under Section 354 and 509 of the IPC. Also, Section 354A of the IPC was added under the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act of 2013. Since the offence is prior to 2013 and criminal law is not retrospective, Nana Patekar will not be held liable for the same.

The record of Mumbai Police when the accused are celebrities has been dismal. Be it in the Salman Khan hit-and-run case or Sheena Bora’s murder case.

There have been murmurs and lost voices on sexual harassment which female actors have to undergo in Bollywood. Social media has been full of young journalists tweeting the harassment which they have faced at the workplace at the hands of their bosses, be it senior editors of prominent newspapers or famous directors of the films. In fact, Chetan Bhagat has come forward and apologised to a young journalist who he tried to woo. Chetan Bhagat simultaneously has apologised to his wife because now he has no face to deny since the young girl has put everything on the social media.

After the Nirbhaya case in 2012, Verma Commission was set up to study the various forms of sexual harassment and crimes faced by women. Justice Verma wanted rape and other sexual offences against women and girls to be treated as a crime and not something to be ashamed of. The #MeToo campaign clearly shows that our brave hearts now have found a voice and are ready to face these creepy men even if it means that they may have to risk their careers or disclose their identities.

The #MeToo campaign clearly shows that our brave hearts now have found a voice and are ready to face these creepy men even if it means that they may have to risk their careers or disclose their identities.

Kangana Ranaut has come forward to lend her support to the young girl who faced sexual harassment at the hands of film director, Vikas Bahl. What is shocking that even popular directors like Anurag Kashyap kept quiet because they were more concerned about the financial success of Phantom films. Only now, when they have no option they decided to disband the Cozy Club of four directors. It clearly shows that even if young girls in the film industry have come forward, the male-dominated industry has paid no heed to complaints of sexual harassment.

The #MeToo Campaign is going to have far-reaching effects. The optimist in me hopes that mothers are going to teach their boys to behave. The supreme court needs to issue a Dikhta ensuring that internal complaints committee as prescribed under the Vishakha guidelines and the Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013 will be set up. Every organisation which fails to set it up should be fined. In fact, the work permits should be cancelled if they cannot make women safe in their work premise.

The time has come for the Supreme Court to clearly outline that Article 21 does not only mean right to life and right to live with dignity, but also encompasses a fundamental right of every girl and woman in this country to be free from the onslaught of sexual predators. #MeToo movement is going to bring a total change in our country.

Abha Singh is a Former Civil Servant and now a practising Lawyer in Bombay High Court. She is a crusader for Gender Justice and Women Empowerment. Abha also runs an NGO RannSamar to provide legal assistance to the underprivileged. 

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