Awareness on Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013: Part 2

This is Part 2 of the 5 part series blog which will cover the constitution, tenure, powers and duties of the Complaints committee under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

In the Part 1 we had covered the general overview along with the background that laid foundation for the existing Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

Introduction

The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013[1] (hereinafter referred to as “POSH Act”) was implemented with a view to provide every woman with a conducive work environment that is safe, secure and free from sexual harassment. In a landmark judgment Vishaka and others v State of Rajasthan [1997][2] Hon’ble Supreme Court, came up with the guidelines called as “Vishaka Guidelines” for dealing with the instances of sexual harassment at the workplace, which has now been codified in the POSH Act. Under the POSH Act, every employer is required to constitute Internal Complaints Committee [hereinafter referred to as ICC] to hear and redress complaints pertaining to sexual harassment.  The Local Complaints Committee [hereinafter referred to as LCC]]” shall be constituted by the District Officer to receive complaints of sexual harassment from establishments where the ICC has not been constituted due to having less than ten workers or if the complaint is to be made against the employer himself.

Sexual Harassment

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Internal Complaints Committee [ICC]

Under section 4 of the POSH act, every employer of the workplace shall constitute a committee called as “Internal Complaints Committee” (also called ICC). The Internal Committees shall consist of the following members to be nominated by the employer, namely:

Constitution and tenure of the Internal Complaints Committee

  1. Presiding Officer: Shall be a woman employed at a senior level at workplace from amongst the employees. In case of unavailability of a senior level woman employee, nomination from other offices or administrative units of the workplace and in case senior level woman employee is not available in other offices or administrative units of the workplace, the Presiding Officer shall be nominated from any other workplace of the same employer or other department or organisation;
  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. At least fifty percent of the total Members so nominated shall be women.
  4. Fees and allowances shall be paid to the member appointed from amongst the non-governmental organisations or associations for holding the proceedings of the Internal Committee, by the employer. Section 3 of The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Rules, 2013 elaborates that the member appointed from amongst the non government organizations shall be entitled to an allowance of INR 200 per day and reimbursement of the travel cost incurred for holding the proceedings of the Internal Complaints Committee.[3]
  5. The member or Presiding officer shall be removed from the committee if he/she has been convicted for an offence or is under pending inquiry into an offence or has been found guilty in any disciplinary proceedings or has abused his position or has published or made known the contents of a complaint and inquiry proceedings to the public.
  6. Vacancy in the ICC shall be filled by fresh nomination.
  7. The tenure of the Presiding Officer and every Member of the ICC shall not exceed three years, from the date of their nomination.

Local Complaints Committee [ICC]

Local Complaints Committee (LCC) is a body formulated according to the Section 6 of the POSH Act.

  • The District Officer is responsible to constitute a committee known as the Local Complaints Committee [also called LCC] to receive complaints of sexual harassment from establishments where ICC has not been constituted due to having less than ten workers or if the complaint is to be filed against the employer himself.
  • One Nodal officer is designated by the District Officer in every block, taluka and tehsil to receive complaints related to sexual harassment and forward the same to the LCC within a period of seven days.
  • LCC jurisdiction shall extend to the district where it is constituted.

Composition and tenure of Local Complaints Committee [LCC]

  • A Chairperson to be nominated from amongst the eminent women in the field of social work and committed to the cause of women;
  • One Member to be nominated from amongst the women working in block, taluka or tehsil or ward or municipality in the district;
  • Two Members, of whom at least one shall be a woman, to be nominated from amongst such non-governmental organisations or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment.
  • The concerned officer dealing with the social welfare or women and child development in the district, shall be a member ex officio.
  • The member or Chairperson shall be removed from the committee if he/she has been convicted for an offence or is under pending inquiry into an offence or has been found guilty in any disciplinary proceedings or has abused his position or has published or made known the contents of a complaint and inquiry proceedings to the public.
  • Vacancy in the LCC shall be filled by fresh nomination.
  • The members and Chairperson shall hold office for such period, not exceeding three years.              

Powers of ICC and LCC

The ICC and LCC have the same powers as are vested in a civil court the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908 (5 of 1908) in the following matters:

  1. Examining the person on oath by summoning him/her and enforcing the attendance.
  2. Ask for production of documents;
  3. Any other matter which may be prescribed.

 Power of Complaint Committee [ICC & LCC] in case of False and Malicious Complaints

Where the ICC or LCC finds out that the complaint has been filled with malicious intentions or a false complaint is filed or forged/ misleading documents have been produced by the aggrieved person or even after knowing that the complaint is false, it was still filled by the aggrieved person or his known, the ICC or LCC may recommend to the employer or the District Officer, to take strict actions.

Duties of Complaints Committee

  • Implementation of the Prevention of Sexual Harassment [also called POSH] Policy at the workplace.
  • Submit an Annual Report.
  • Conduct awareness sessions on Prevention POSH Policy by organizing training sessions, workshops, posters etc.
  • Provide the aggrieved person with a safe and accessible channel to raise complaint.
  • Early initiation of inquiry.
  • Judiciously redress the complaints.
  • Interim relief to be provided to the complainant.
  • Provide an opportunity for conciliation.
  • Principles of natural justice to be followed.
  • Forward the complaint to the police where applicable.
  • Inquiry report to be submitted along with the recommendations.
  • Confidentiality to be maintained.

Conclusion

Under section 4 of the POSH Act every employer is required to constitute Internal Complaints Committee [ICC] to hear and redress complaints pertaining to sexual harassment and section 5 mandates the District Officer shall constitute Local Complaints Committee [LCC] to receive complaints of sexual harassment from establishments where the ICC has not been constituted or in cases where the complaint is to be made against the employer himself. The complaints committee plays a pivotal role in spreading awareness on the POSH Act, providing quick redressal mechanism to the complaints received and ensuring a safe work environment.

Part 3 of this series will discuss the complaints and redressal mechanism under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.

Author: Ms. Chhavi Pande – Sr. Associate Litigation  at Khurana & Khurana, Advocates and IP Attorney,  in case of any queries please contact/write back to us via email chhavi@khuranaandkhurana.com

References:

[1]Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, A2013-14.pdf (legislative.gov.in)/ (last visited Feb 6, 2022).

[2]Vishaka and others v State of Rajasthan, 1997. https://main.sci.gov.in/jonew/judis/13856.pdf (last visited Feb 6, 2022).

[3]The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Rules 2013. http://www.shebox.nic.in/assets/site/main/images/Sexual-Harassment-at-Workplace-Rules.pdf (last visited Feb 6, 2022).

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