Komal Sahni (BSL, LLB)

Komal SahniIntroduction – The right to be protected from Sexual Harassment and sexual assault is one of the pillars on which the very construct of gender justice stands. The Sexual Harassment of Women at Work Place (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 (hereinafter referred to as “Act”) stipulates that a woman shall not be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace. As per the statute, presence or occurrence of circumstances of implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in employment; threat of detrimental treatment in employment; threat about present or future employment; interference with work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment; or humiliating treatment likely to affect the lady employee’s health or safety may amount to sexual harassment.

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Constitution of Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)

  1. Every employer of a workplace shall, by an order in writing, constitute a Committee to be known as the “Internal Complaints Committee” (hereinafter known as “ICC”). The ICC shall consists of Presiding Officer who shall be a woman employed at a senior level at workplace from amongst the employees.
  2. Not less than two Members from amongst employees preferably committed to the cause of women or who have had experience in social work or have legal knowledge.
  3. One member from amongst non-governmental organisations or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment.
  4. One-half of the total Members so nominated shall be women.
  5. Where the offices or administrative units of the workplace are located at different places or divisional or sub-divisional level, the Internal Committee shall be constituted at all administrative units or offices.
  6. The Presiding Officer and every Member of the Internal Committee shall hold office for such period, not exceeding three years, from the date of their nomination as may be specified by the employer.
  7. The Member appointed from amongst the non-governmental organisations or associations shall be entitled for to an allowance of two thousand rupees per day for holding the proceedings of the Internal Committee, and also reimbursement for travel, by the employer.

Procedure

Incident of sexual harassment at Workplace → On request of Female Employee→ Conciliation → Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) → Inquiry Report→ If Allegation proved→ Action for Misconduct→ If Allegation is not proved →No action by Employer and Punishment for false or malicious compliant and false evidence→ Appeal to Appellate Authority notified under clause (a) of Section 2 of Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946.

Timelines

  • A written communication has to be filed by the female employee (or prescribed list of persons), within 3 months from the date of incident.
  • The inquiry has to be completed within 90 days.
  • The inquiry report has to be submitted within 10 days from the date of completion of inquiry.
  • Employer is required to act upon the recommendations of the ICC within 60 days of receipt of inquiry report.
  • Appeal against the decision of the ICC is allowed within 90 days.

Constitution and jurisdiction of Local Complaints Committee

  1. Every District Officer shall constitute in the district concerned, a committee to be known as the “Local Complaints Committee” to receive complaints of sexual harassment from establishments where the Internal Complaints Committee has not been constituted due to having less than ten workers or if the complaint is against the employer himself.
  2. The District Officer shall designate one nodal officer in every block, taluka and tehsil in rural or tribal area and ward or municipality in the urban area, to receive complaints and forward the same to the concerned Local Complaints Committee within a period of seven days.
  3. The jurisdiction of the Local Complaints Committee shall extend to the areas of the district where it is constituted.

Compliances for the Employer

  • Formation of Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), u/s 4 of the Act, in case the number of workers are more than 10, or if the compliant is not against the Employer himself,
  • The employer shall implement the recommendations made by ICC u/s 12 of the Act               i.e. Transferring, granting leave, or relief to the aggrieved women, and send the report of such implementation to the ICC,
  • Duties have been casted upon the Employer u/s 19 of the Act namely:
    • The Employer has to display at any conspicuous place in the workplace, the penal consequences of sexual harassments; and the order constituting, the ICC under subsection (1) of section 4;
    • Organising workshops and awareness programes at regular intervals for sensitising the employees with the provisions of the Act and orientation programes for the members of the ICC as per rule 13 of the Act, etc.
  • The ICC in each calendar year to prepare an annual report as prescribed in the rule 21 of the Act, and submit the same to the Employer and District Officer,
  • The Employer shall include in its Annual Report the number of cases filed, if any, and their disposal under this Act in the Annual Report of his Organisation or where no such report is required to be prepared, intimate such number of cases, if any, to the District Officer.
  • Penalty for non compliance may extend to fifty thousand for the first time, and subsequent commitment of offence might lead to stringent punishment like cancellation, of his licence or withdrawal, or non-renewal, or approval, or cancellation of the registration, as the case may be, by the Government or local authority required for carrying on his business or activity.
  • Formulate and widely disseminate an internal policy or charter,
  • Declare the names and contact details of all members of the ICC.

Conclusion-

The Act has been enacted almost 16 years after the Vishaka judgment, by codifying the guidelines we are slowly but definitely taking a significant step towards ensuring a healthy and safe environment for women at workplace.

Image courtesy – David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Tags : Government Policy (1973)

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