To curb the menace of Sexual Harassment, the Indian Government introduced Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013. For the very first time, the Indian Courts acknowledge the incidents of sexual harassment at workplace in its iconic judgment Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan wherein Supreme Court laid down certain specific guidelines.
Now every organization is bothered to ensure POSH (Prevention of Sexual Harassment) policy for its workplace. Incidents of Sexual Harassment not only dent the image of a company but put a full stop to the growth.
Following instructions were given in cases related to the inquiry in cases of sexual harassment,
- Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)should be set up in all Department and organizations. As per Section 4(1) of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, the Internal Complaints Committee should be there at every workplace.
- As per Section 4(2), this should be head by a woman and at least half of its members should be women. As per Section 9(1) of the Act, the complainant shouldcomplain within three months of the incident.
- On the receipt of a complaint, the ICC will verify the facts of the allegation. The inquiry should begin within two weeks of the filing of a complaint which include cross-examination of the witnesses through a questionnaire.
- The internal complaints committeeshould intimate about the date and time of its proceedings to the appellant and the respondents in writing as well as by e-mail.
- The accused and the respondent shall not be present at the time of recording of the cross-examination of the witnesses of the complainant.
- Examination-in-chief of the complainants’ witnesses shall be submitted in writing to the ICC.
- The witnesses will then be called by the members of ICC for inquiry. The ICC shall make every endeavor to supply a copy of the cross-examination of the complainants’ witnesses to the appellant.
- After completion of the cross-examination of the complainants’ witnesses, the appellant shall submit the defense witnesses to the ICC in writing. The copies of the statements of the appellant’s witnesses should be provided to respondents.
- The respondent shall submit the Examination-in-chief of the defense witness in writing to the ICC. That such a submission shall be made within 1 week from the date of cross-examination of the complainants’ witnesses.
- After completion of the cross-examination of the witnesses of the appellant, parties shall be given a personal hearing by the ICC. After consideration of recording of the inquiry and the submissions made by the parties, the ICC shall submit a separate report along with its recommendations to the Governing Body.
- The ICC should complete the investigation procedure within a total period of three months.
Let’s look over the facts of the recent case:
- The Punjab and Haryana High Court has asked the Haryana Civil aviation adviser to appear in person before it to assist in a matter related to a sexual harassment complaint against a senior official of Haryana Institute of Civil Aviation (HICA), Karnal.
- “The adviser, civil aviation, government of Haryana, is requested to remain present so as to assist the court,” as per Justice Singh Dhindsa.
- In this case, the complainant, a woman employee of the department, has alleged that the inquiry being conducted in pursuance of a complaint of sexual harassment was not according to the procedure under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013.
- Her grouse was that instead of the inquiry being conducted in the presence of the presiding officer/ chairperson and a minimum of three members of the complaints committee, the proceedings were actually being conducted in isolation by a law officer.
- The court has now summoned the civil aviation advisor to ensure that rules and statutory provisions are complied with in future. The case has been fixed for April 26 for further hearing.
- The complaint was filed by the petitioner of sexual harassment in November last year. Acting on the complaint, the department head on November 30, 2018, appointed, additional laborCommissioner-cum presiding Suman Kundu to conduct an inquiry in the matter under the provisions of the abovesaid act.
- Two officials of the department and general secretary of Haryana state branch Bharatiya Grameen Mahila Sangh, Panchkula, Nandita Hooda were nominated as members of the committee to assist the officer.
- According to the petitioner, proceedings conducted on different dates, including January 10 and 17, however, show that only the labor department law officer Gobind Sharma has been participating in the proceedings.
- The government, however, justified it on the ground that a subsequent order dated December 5, 2018, passed by the Haryana Civil aviation advisor in which Gobind was reflected as a member.
- On this, the HC on a previous date of hearing on February 8 had observed that strangely, the order dated December 5, 2018, issued by the civil aviation advisor does not even advert to the previous order dated November 30, 2018, passed by the civil aviation additional secretary much less superseding the same.
- The court had then ordered to keep the proceedings of the internal complaints committee in abeyance. The complaint was filed against a deputy chief flying instructor, HICA, Karnal.
This post is written by Damini Aggarwal of Punjab University (2020 batch). Dial 99888-17966 for more info.