Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan

The petition was brought as public interest litigation by social activists and NGOs in order to address violations of the rights of working women in India, as enshrined in the Constitution of India in Articles 14 (equality before the law), 19 (right to practice any profession or to carry out any occupation, trade or business) and 21 (protection of life and personal liberty). Although the immediate case was in response to the gang rape of a social worker in a village in Rajasthan, the petitioners were responding to the wider issue of sexual harassment towards working women and the subsequent lack of gender equality.

The action stemmed from the lack of legislative protection for the rights of working women as enshrined in India’s constitution to the extent that practical protection and enforcement was not possible. The court, in the absence of such legislation, was petitioned to provide alternative legal protection for the rights of working women until legislation could be drafted and passed. The State and Union of India did not object to the provision of guidelines in relation to the issue and provided assistance in the proceedings in order to address the matter.