The Government of India, in the year 2013, legislated Sexual Harassment Act. The Act incorporates guidelines issued in Vishaka case by Supreme Court of India.The Act states its objectives as prevention of violation of fundamental rights of a woman employee under article 14 (equal protection under the laws), article 15 (prohibition of discrimination on race, caste, religion, sex, etc.) and article 21 (protection of life and personal liberty) of the Constitution of India.
Salient features of the act:
- Definition of sexual harassment. ( incorporation of non verbal conduct also)
- Setting up of internal complaint committee in case of employer employing more than 10 employees. The Internal Committee would comprise of employees and a member of non-government organisation. The presiding officer of the Internal Committee would need to be a woman employee
- Setting up of local complaint committee The government may notify a District Magistrate or Additional District Magistrate or Collector (“District Authority”) to exercise powers or discharge functions for every district under the Act. The District Authority to constitute Local Complaints Committee (“Local Committee”) with a woman as its chairperson.
- Act doesn’t allow monetary settlement.
- The process for inquiry of compliant filed by an aggrieved woman employee would need to be completed within a period of 90 (ninety) days from the date of filing of compliant with the Committee. Within 10 (ten) days after the conclusion of inquiry proceedings, the Committee will need to send its report and recommendations to the employer or District Authority, as the case may be.
- Provide a safe working environment;
- Display at a conspicuous place, penal consequences for sexual harassment;
- Organise workshops for employees and orientation programs for the Committee;
- Assist in securing the attendance of offender and witness;
- Provide assistance to aggrieved woman employee;
- Initiate action under Indian Penal Code if the offence requires such action or offender is not an employee.