Say no to sexual harassment

This case was a PIL filed by an NGO called ‘Vishaka’ against the State of Rajasthan, for violation of FRs of Women under Art 14, 19 and 21.

By Author  |  Published: 21st Oct 2019  12:42 amUpdated: 20th Oct 2019  4:27 pm
sexual harassment

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is a legislative act in India that seeks to protect women from sexual harassment at their place of work. In this article we will get to know more about the act.

Vishaka Vs. State of Rajasthan

This case was a PIL filed by an NGO called ‘Vishaka’ against the State of Rajasthan, for violation of FRs of Women under Art 14, 19 and 21. The petition was filed after a social worker in Rajasthan was gang raped for stopping a Child Marriage. The bench which gave judgement was headed by Justice JS Varma. Supreme Court in this case issued guidelines to deal with sexual harassment at work place.

Guidelines:
SC defined sexual harassment as anything at work that can place the working women at disadvantage when compared to other male employees in her office just because she is a woman.

This includes, unwelcomed sexually determined behaviour and demands from male employees at work place such as:

(i) Any physical contact
(ii) Showing pornography
(iii) Passing lewd comments and gestures
(iv) Sexual demands by any means
(v) Any rumour or talk at work place about working women or about her relationship with anybody

Creating awareness about sexual harassment and consequences of sexual harassment is the responsibility of the employer. An internal complaints committee must be constituted in order to deal with the complaints of sexual harassment and this committee must be headed by a women employee.

Prevention of Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013 came into effect December 9, 2013.

This law has been enacted to:
(i) Prevent violation of Articles 14, 15, 19 and 21 related to working women.
(ii) To comply with CEDAW to which India is a signatory and Government of India ratified it on June 25, 1993.

Purpose:
(i) To provide protection against sexual harassment against women at workplace.
(ii) To provide for prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment.

Features of the act:
The definition given by Supreme Court for sexual harassment in Vishaka case included in this Act.

Under the act work place includes, organisations departments, offices, branches, unit and so on in both public and private sectors, hospitals, nursing homes, educational institutions, sports institutions stadiums, and any place visited by the employee during the course of employment including transportation.

The definition of aggrieved women (victim) who will get protection under the act is extremely wide to cover all women irrespective of her age, employment status, within the organised or unorganised sectors, public or private and covers clients, customers and domestic workers.

The redressal mechanism in the Act is provided in the form of Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and Local Complaints Committee (LCC).

Every workplace employing 10 or more employees is required to constitute an ICC.

The ICC is required to consist of at least four members, and its presiding officer is required to be a woman employed at a senior level.

Provisions have been made in case no senior woman employee is available, to nominate a woman presiding officer from another office, administrative unit, workplace, or organisation.

Further, one half of the members must be women.

LCCs are to be set up by the appropriate government which shall receive complaints in respect of establishments that do not have ICCs on account of having fewer than 10 employees and to receive complaints from domestic workers.

Description Timeframe

Submission of Complaint Within 3 months of the last incident
Completion of Inquiry Within 90 days
Submission of Report by ICC/LCC to employer/DO Within 10 days of completion of the inquiry
Implementation of Recommendations by employer Within 60 days
Appeal Within 90 days of the recommendations

A senior woman employee must be the chairman of the committee.
A complaint on sexual harassment can be filed within a time limit of three months and may be extended to another three months if the women can prove that circumstances prevented her from complaining before.
• The committee must complete its enquiry within 90 days.
On completion of the enquiry the report will be sent to the employer or the district officer who must take action on the report within 60 days.
Punishment includes termination of service of the accused or withholding of promotions or payment of the reasonable compensation to the victim.

Penal provisions for false complaints.

Employer is responsible to create an environment which is free from sexual harassment by organising workshops, and programmes at regular intervals for sensitising employees about the provisions of the legislation and display notice regarding the constitution of ICC, penal consequences of Sexual Harassment and so on.
An employer will be liable to a fine of Rs. 50,000 in case of violation of duties under the Act and for subsequent violation the amount of fine will be doubled along with penalty in the form of cancellation of license, withdrawal of registration and so on.
Monitoring will be done through submission of annual reports by ICCs and LCCs to the government.


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