About the Law
In 2013, Parliament passed this legislation to complement, rather than substitute, the current law relating to service matters, the rights of employees and other aspects of the law relating to sexual harassment at workplace, which is evident from the provision of the statute itself . Section 28 states: ‘The provisions of this Act shall be in addition to and not in derogation of the provisions of any other law for the time being in force’
This law covers the whole of India and provides that a woman in her workplace is not subjected to sexual harassment. The law, inter alia, extends to government agencies , private and public sector organisations, nongovernmental organisations, organisations carrying out commercial, vocational, educational, entertainment, manufacturing, financial operations, hospitals and nursing homes, educational institutes, sports institutions and stadiums used for training individuals and a dwelling place or a house.
Internal Complaints Committee (IC): An employer is required by the Sexual Harassment Act to set up a 'Internal Complaints Committee' ('IC') at each office or division of a company with at least 10 employees. In exchange, the government is mandated to set up a district level 'Local Complaints Committees' ('LCC') to investigate complaints about sexual assault from establishments where the IC has not been formed because the establishment has less than 10 workers or where the complaint is against the employer. The constitution of committee is as follow :Presiding Officer: Woman employed at a senior level at the workplace from amongst the employees. Members Not less than 2 members from amongst employees. Preferably committed to the cause of women or who have had experience in social work or have legal knowledge. External member From an NGO or association committed to the cause of women or person familiar with issues relating to sexual harassment. Not less than half of the IC Members shall be women the term of the IC Members shall not exceed 3 years A minimum of 3 Members of the IC including the Presiding Officer are to be present for conducting the inquiry.
Powers of the IC/Lcc: The Prevention of Sexual Harassment Act stipulates that the IC and LCC shall, while inquiring into a complaint of workplace sexual harassment, have the same powers as are vested in a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 when trying a suit in respect of:
summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person and examining him on oath;
requiring the discovery and production of documents; and iii. any other matter which may be prescribed
Complaint mechanism: An aggrieved woman who intends to file a complaint is required to submit six copies of the written complaint, along with supporting documents and names and addresses of the witnesses to the IC or LCC, within 3 months from the date of the incident and in case of a series of incidents, within a period of 3 months from the date of the last incident. The IC/LCC can extend the timeline for filing the complaint, for reasons to be recorded in writing, by a period of 3 months. The law also makes provisions for friends, relatives, co-workers, psychologist, psychiatrists, etc. to file the complaint in situations where the aggrieved employee is unable to make the complaint on account of physical incapacity, mental incapacity or death.
Redressal process: Following is the redressal process defined. An aggrieved woman is allowed to request for conciliation in order to settle the matter although monetary settlement should not be made as a basis of conciliation.
On receipt of the complaint, the Complaints Committee shall send one of the copies received from the aggrieved woman under sub-rule (1) to the respondent within a period of seven working days.
The respondent shall file his reply to the complaint along with his list of documents, and names and addresses of witnesses, within a period not exceeding ten working days from the date of receipt of the documents specified under sub-rule (1).
The Complaints Committee shall make inquiry into the complaint in accordance with the principles of natural justice.
The Complaints Committee shall have the right to terminate the inquiry proceedings or to give an ex-parte decision on the complaint, if the complainant or respondent fails, without sufficient cause, to present herself or himself for three consecutive hearings convened by the Chairperson or Presiding Officer, as the case may be: Provided that such termination or ex-parte order may not be passed without giving a notice in writing, fifteen days in advance, to the party concerned.
Other relief to complainant during pendency of inquiry : The Complaints Committee at the written request of the aggrieved woman may recommend to the employer to- restrain the respondent from reporting on the work performance of the aggrieved woman or writing her confidential report, and assign the same to another officer; restrain the respondent in case of an educational institution from supervising any academic activity of the aggrieved woman.
Manner of taking action for sexual harassment :-Except in cases where service rules exist, where the Complaints Committee arrives at the conclusion that the allegation against the respondent has been proved, it shall recommend to the employer or the District Officer, as the case may be, to take any action including a written apology, warning, reprimand or censure, withholding of promotion, withholding of pay rise or increments, terminating the respondent from service or undergoing a counselling session or carrying out community service.
Action for false or malicious complaint or false evidence: Except in cases where service rules exist, where the Complaints Committee arrives at the conclusion that the allegation against the respondent is malicious or the aggrieved woman or any other person making the complaint has made the complaint knowing it to be false or the aggrieved woman or any other person making the complaint has produced any forged or misleading document, it may recommend to the employer or District Officer, as the case may be, to take action in accordance with the provisions of Rule 9.
Appeal: Subject to the provisions of Section 18, any person aggrieved from the recommendations made under sub-section (2) of Section 13 or under clauses (i) or clause (ii) of sub-section (3) of Section 13 or sub-section (1) or sub-section (2) of Section 14 or Section 17 or non-implementation of such recommendations may prefer an appeal to the appellate authority notified under clause (a) of Section 2 of the Industrial Employment (Standing Orders) Act, 1946 (20 of 1946).