Vishakha and Ors. vs State of Rajasthan and Ors. [AIR 1997 (6) SCC 241]

Case : Vishakha and Ors. vs State of Rajasthan and Ors.
Court: Supreme Court of India.
Equivalent Citation - AIR (1997) 6 SCC 241
Petitioner: Vishaka & Ors.
Respondent: State of Rajasthan & Ors.
Date of Judgement: 13/08/1997
Bench: J.S. Verma C.J., Sujata V. Manohar & B.N. Kirpal JJ.

Facts of the case

  • In this case Vishakha and Ors. vs State of Rajasthan and Ors. , the petition filed was concerning the enforcement of the elemental right (of the employed men) under Article 14, 19, and 21 of the constitution of India.
  • Bhanwari Devi was a saathin (welfare worker) for the women’s development program to stop child marriage in Bhateri (Rajasthan, India) managed by the government of Rajasthan. As a role of their job, she operated instantly with families to prevent the marriages and report cases to the police when necessary follow-up operation was required.
  • This involved one particular case, where Bhanwari Devi reported a family from the Gujjar community to the police. They were arranging the wedding of a one-year-old infant. She put all the efforts to prevent the wedding of Ram Karan Gujjar’s girl who was just a few months old.
  • However, marriage occurred, yet she wasn’t, pardoned for her endeavors to prevent the marriage. She was exposed to social barriers. In September 1992, upset with the intervention, Ram Karan Gujjar and his mates, the group attacked her ahead of the husband at her home.
  • Her husband was attacked and controlled, while she was gang-raped. No detailed investigation was launched, and police delayed taking statements regarding what had happened. The policeman demanded the victim Bhanwari to go away by leaving her clothes as evidence and return to her house. All she had was just her husband’s blood-stained dhoti to wear.
  • Bhanwari was also forced to hunt medical attention in Jaipur. The doctors were negligent to once they affirmed just her age without making any substantial reference towards assault (gang rape) in the therapeutic report at Jaipur. Fifty-two hours passed before a check-up was conducted.
  • Determined to receive justice for the brutal acts committed against her, Bhanwari took her case to attempt court in Jaipur. The court acquitted the accused (all five men). In dismissing the case, judges found it highly doubtful that an uncle and his nephews would rape another woman together.
  • They also found it is impossible to believe that Bhanwari’s husband could be restrained while watching his wife be raped. Other reasons offered by the court included Bhanwari’s delayed report back to the police and therefore, the lack of medical evidence identifying the lads who had raped her.
  • The High Court expressed that “it is an instance of group assault which was submitted out of retribution.” This incited Vishaka and 4 other women NGOs to file a petition for an equivalent within the supreme court of India.

The injustice and brutal attack Bhanwari suffered exposed the gravity of harassment within the workplace and therefore, the lack of protection women has against it, and therefore, the Supreme Court examined the problems intricately.

Issues of the case

The Supreme Court had inspected the case which highlighted the matter of gender inequality, outraging the modesty of girls, harassment at the workplace, and rape as societal problems with substantial intensity.

Sexual Harassment at workplace
Image Source – Google | Image by –  SUZANNE LUCAS


  • Article 14
  • Article 15
  • Article 19 (1)(g)
  • Article 21

Analysis of the Judgement

The bench in Vishaka was called upon for the implementation of the elemental rights specified beneath Articles 14, 19 & 21. This rise also was an important think about the increase in incidents of harassment and related offenses against women at workplaces. There was no law to stop & punish the commission of such offenses, therefore; the majority of the incidents went unreported and hence unpunished.

This was a black mark on the Indian criminal justice system. The legislature was still silent on making any law in such regard even after multiple incidents of comparable nature where there was harassment. Therefore, during a class-action suit, brought by various NGO’s and social workers, finally, the apex court brought this silence to an end. The court had formulated new guidelines without even hesitating in breaking the boundaries of the constitution for the prevention of such kinds of incidents.

This was a welcome step by the Supreme Court where it finally provided the victims of such incidents a law through which they will seek the remedy. This episode exhibited the consequences to which a working woman faces and therefore the urgent requirement for protection by the other system within the lack of statute.

The court ruled that violation of gender equality is a violation of the right to life & liberty mentioned under Article 21. Alongside the violation of Article 21, the court also found a gross violation of Articles 14 & 15.

The court after reading Article 51(c) with Article 253 and entry 14 of union list mentioned in the 7th schedule found that within the absence of relevant statutes the court can draw inspiration from the law of nations, treaties, and conventions to resolve a drag.

Therefore, the court after a deep interpretation of:

  • Convention on the elimination of all sorts of discrimination against women (Article 11 & 24)
  • General recommendations of CEDAW during this context (Article 11, 22, 23, 24)
  • At the 4th world conference on women in Beijing, govt. of India made a political commitment to line up a national commission at every level and in every sector, which will take care of women’s rights.

Came up with Vishaka guidelines to stop the taboo that was within the past with none remedy. The court ruled that gender equality & the right to figure with dignity is injured whenever there’s as any incident of harassment. These rights have gained universal acceptance therefore, interpretation of international covenants and agreement is a must to formulate such guidelines.


The judgment of Vishakha and Ors. vs State of Rajasthan and Ors. , along with its importance also contains rationality in the sense that it does not over-pressurize the employer in constructing a redressal mechanism. The judgment has only directed what seems appropriate for the employer to maintain the constitutional principles of equality and liberty. The decision can never be termed as one where the judges invade their surroundings then it is referred to as judicial overreach which is considered to be the best model of judicial activism.

Sexual harassment of women at the workplace happens at a very frequent rate in India. If a serious lawsuit is not filed for the offense then it will cause hindrance in the working rate of women in India and it will hamper the economic situation of India. The government must implement strict laws regarding the aversion of sexual harassment at workplace, because it should realize that, women also constitute the working population of our country.

It should be abolished to prevent the dignity and the respect of women. Numerous distinct techniques and skills shall be performed by the companies, institutions to check their women employees from such social damage. The main purpose behind the stabilization of this right is to encourage gender equality at the workplace without any sort of difference and discernment amongst the workers of an association.

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