ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has sought a report from the law secretary in two weeks that outlines what the government has done to implement the Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act 2010. It also ordered Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) chairman Muhammad Ali Gardezi to explain within the same time period why no action had been taken on Captain Rifat Haye’s case.
A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, was hearing a contempt petition on Monday filed by female PIA pilot Captain Rifat Haye, which stated that the Supreme Court’s orders given on July 18 last year had not been complied with.
Captain Haye, who joined PIA in 1990, said in her petition that she had been subjected to “severe intimidation and harassment” by male colleagues since the early years of her career.
Frustrated by the lack of action from her superiors over her complaints, she went to the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Women’s Development in 2010.
On March 31, 2010, the Standing Committee of National Assembly on Women’s Development ordered strict disciplinary action against the two accused PIA officers, Captain Tariq Khoso and Captain Kaleem Chugtai. Three years later, on July 18, 2013, the Supreme Court ordered the authorities concerned to act on the recommendations made.
But even Haye’s counsel Jawwad Hassan told the bench that despite the promulgation of Protection Against Harassment of Women at the Workplace Act, the petitioner is being harassed and professionally victimised by senior officials in the PIA. “The committee had recommended strict disciplinary action against them, but so far authorities have been avoiding its implementation. Haye also filed cases in the high court which ruled in her favour but the PIA management did not take any action,” he told the court.
The Act defines harassment as: “any unwelcome sexual advance, request for sexual favours or other verbal and written communication or physical conduct of a sexual nature or sexually demeaning attitudes, causing interference with the work performance or creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive work environment, or the attempt to punish the complainant for refusal to comply to such a request or is made condition for employment.”
It also states that all organisations will be required to constitute inquiry committees of at least three members each – one of them a woman – to probe complaints and share their findings within 30 days with the competent authority concerned that will award recommended penalties.
The court had directed the PIA MD to comply with the recommendations of the standing committee in letter and spirit.“However, the petitioner has approached the high-ups of PIA time and again to initiate proceedings and take action against the two accused PIA officers, who had allegedly harassed her, but the top management is delaying the matter,” he contended.
Hassan further claimed that the PIA management, including the PIA MD, has committed a wilful disobedience by not implementing the court’s July 18, 2013 order.
Upon this, the bench observed that it seems that Section 11 of the Harassment of Women act was not implemented. On the court’s query, the counsel said that he wanted the implementation of that law across the board. The SC has directed the law secretary to submit a report on what steps had the government taken so far to implement the Act.
The hearing was adjourned for two weeks.