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Mental Harassment at Workplace: Understanding its Implications and Legal Safeguards in India.

By: Aditi Sharma, Advocate

Mental Harassment at Work

Workplace harassment, whether it’s of a physical or psychological nature, is a pervasive issue in today’s professional world. Mental harassment at the workplace is a particularly insidious form of abuse that can have severe consequences on an individual’s mental and emotional well-being. In India, recognising the importance of addressing mental harassment, various laws and regulations have been put in place to protect employees from such distress. In this article, we will delve into the concept of mental harassment in the workplace and explore the applicability of laws in India to combat this issue.

Defining Mental Harassment at the Workplace

Mental harassment at the workplace, often referred to as workplace bullying, is a form of psychological abuse that occurs in a professional setting. It may involve a range of behaviours, such as intimidation, humiliation, verbal abuse, exclusion, or spreading malicious rumours about an employee. The consequences of mental harassment can be devastating, leading to stress, anxiety, depression, and a decline in overall well-being. It can also result in decreased productivity and a hostile work environment.

Applicability of Mental Harassment Laws in India

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013: This law is designed to address sexual harassment in the workplace, but it also covers various forms of mental harassment. The Act mandates that every organisation with more than ten employees must constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to address complaints of harassment. It offers protection to all women employees, whether permanent, temporary, or contract, and prescribes strict penalties for non-compliance. The law recognises that mental harassment is a violation of a woman’s dignity and ensures that the workplace remains safe for them.

The Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946:

This Act contains provisions for maintaining discipline in the workplace. It includes clauses that require employers to specify rules regarding the conduct of employees, thereby prohibiting any form of harassment, including mental harassment. Violation of these rules can result in disciplinary action or termination, and employees can seek redressal through the relevant labour authorities.

The Indian Penal Code, 1860 for Mental Harassment:

Various sections of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) can be used to address mental harassment in the workplace. For instance, Section 503 and Section 504 deal with criminal intimidation and intentional insult with intent to provoke a breach of peace, respectively. When mental harassment reaches a criminal level, victims can file a complaint under these provisions.

The Prevention of Insults to National Honor Act, 1971: Mental Harassment Act

This Act can be invoked when mental harassment takes the form of offence derogatory remarks about an individual’s nationality or ethnicity. The Acturmakes it a punishable no to insult the national ho of a person belonging to a particular country or ethnicity.

The Right to Equality under Article 14 of the Indian Constitution: The Indian Constitution guarantees the right to equality, and this can be invoked when mental harassment is based on factors like caste, gender, religion, or other discriminatory grounds. Article 14 ensures that all individuals are equal before the law and protects them from any form of discrimination, including mental harassment.

Legal Recourse and Procedure for Mental Harassment Case

Employees facing mental harassment at the workplace should follow these steps for legal recourse:

Report the harassment to the employer or the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) if available.

• If the harassment persists or the employer fails to take appropriate action, the victim can file a formal complaint with the ICC.

• If the complaint is not resolved at the workplace, the victim can approach the labour authorities or the police, depending on the nature and severity of the harassment.

• In extreme mental harassment cases, victims can file a civil suit or criminal complaint as per the relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code.


Mental harassment at workplace is a serious issue that can have lasting effects on an individual’s mental health and overall well-being. In India, there are legal provisions and mechanisms in place to address and prevent such harassment, ensuring that employees can work in a safe and respectful environment. Both employers and employees need to be aware of these laws and take appropriate action when faced with mental
harassment to protect the dignity and well-being of all individuals in the workplace.