WCD frames rules under sexual harassment at workplace act

NEW DELHI, July 28:  Sexual harassment at work place may lead to termination of service of the accused, withholding of promotions and increments, and payment of reasonable compensation to the complainant.

These are some of the penal provisions in the rules being drafted by the Ministry of Women and Child Development to implement the Sexual Harassment at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act 2013, which came into being in February.

According to the proposed rules, if allegations against the accused turn out to be false and after inquiry, are found to be made with a malicious intent, the complainant may face similar penal provisions as listed for the accused.

The rules suggest the constitution of a local complaints committee which should have a social worker with five years of experience in the relevant field, a person familiar with labour, employment, civil or criminal law.

The district-level child protection society constituted under the Integrated Child Protection Scheme (ICPS) or any other district-level crisis centre for women would provide logistic support for this committee.

Under the ‘manner of inquiry into the complaint’, the accused will be required to reply along with list of documents and details of witnesses within 10 days of the complaint made and complaints committee in turn will have to conduct a hearing within 10 days of the receipt of accused’s version.

The rules also suggest the committee should ensure that face-to-face encounter of complainant and accused is avoided.

The committee may issue a restraint order warning the accused that any attempt on his part or by persons acting on his behalf to contact or influence or intimidate or exert pressure on the complainant or witnesses may prove prejudicial to his case.

As per the rules, the accused will be provided with a copy of the statement by the committee and if the former does not agree with the statement, opportunity should be given to the accused to refute the allegations.

At no point during the proceedings, either of the parties should be allowed to bring in any legal representative to argue their case.

To provide relief during the pendency of proceedings, the accused may be restrained from reporting on the work performance or confidential report of the aggrieved and assign it to another officer.

In case of an educational institution, the complaints committee shall have the power to restrain the accused from supervising any academic activity of the complainant including but not limited to evaluation, examination, re-examination and supervision of research by the aggrieved.

According to the proposed rules, the complaints committee may have the right to terminate inquiry proceedings and give an ex-parte decision if the complainant or the accused fails to be present during the hearing without any valid reasons for three consecutive hearings.

For the purposes of section 9(2) of Act, the rules suggest that if the aggrieved is unable to complain on account of physical incapacity, a complaint can be filed by her legal heir or any relative or friend, a co-worker, national/state women’s commission, a member of staff association (Union) of which she was a member, provided that written consent of the woman is obtained prior to filing such a complaint.

Apart from that, the rules suggests that a special educator, qualified psychologist/psychiatrist or an authority under whose care the person is receiving treatment may also file a complaint.

In case of death of the aggrieved, a complaint may be filed by her legal heir or any other person who has knowledge of the sexual harassment with the consent of the legal heir. (PTI)




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