Sexual Harassment Complaints and In-House Redressal Committee: A Legal Analysis:

The sexual harassment policy of any business operating in India must be in conformity with THE SEXUAL HARASSMENT OF WOMEN AT WORKPLACE (PREVENTION, PROHIBITION AND REDRESSAL) ACT, 2013. The act provides protection against sexual harassment of women at workplace and for the prevention and redressal of complaints of sexual harassment and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto. Sexual harassment results in violation of the fundamental rights of a woman to equality under articles 14 and 15 of the Constitution of India and her right to life and to live with dignity under article 21 of the Constitution and right to practice any profession or to carry on any occupation, trade or business with includes a right to a safe environment free from sexual harassment. The protection against sexual harassment and the right to work with dignity are universally recognised human rights by international conventions and instruments such as Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, which has been ratified on the 25th June, 1993 by the Government of India.

Meaning of Sexual Harassment:

According to section 2(n) of The Sexual Harassment Act, “sexual harassment” includes any one or more of the following unwelcome acts or behavior (whether directly or by implication) namely:—
(i) Physical contact and advances; or
(ii) A demand or request for sexual favours; or
(iii) Making sexually coloured remarks; or
(iv) Showing pornography; or
(v) Any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature;
Prevention of sexual harassment:
Section 3 of the Act states the following:-
(1) No woman shall be subjected to sexual harassment at any workplace.
(2) The following circumstances, among other circumstances, if it occurs, or is present in relation to or connected with any act or behavior of sexual harassment may amount to sexual harassment:—
(i) Implied or explicit promise of preferential treatment in her employment; or
(ii) Implied or explicit threat of detrimental treatment in her employment; or
(iii) Implied or explicit threat about her present or future employment status; or
(iv) Interference with her work or creating an intimidating or offensive or hostile work environment for her; or
(v) Humiliating treatment likely to affect her health or safety.

Under Section 4 of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013
1.     Every employer of a workplace shall, by an order in writing, constitute a Committee to be known as the "Internal Complaints Committee":
Provided that where the offices or administrative units of the workplace are located at different places or divisional or sub-divisional level, the Internal Committee shall be constituted at all administrative units or offices.
2.     The Internal Committee shall consist of the following members to be nominated by the employer, namely:—
a.     a Presiding Officer who shall be a woman employed at a senior level at workplace from amongst the employees:
Provided that in case a senior level woman employee is not available, the Presiding Officer shall be nominated from other offices or administrative units of the workplace referred to in sub-section (l):
Provided further that in case the other offices or administrative units of the workplace do not have a senior level woman employee, the Presiding Officer shall be nominated from any other workplace of the same employer or other department or organisation;
b.    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;
c.     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:

“Provided that at least one-half of the total Members so nominated shall be women.”

3.     The Presiding Officer and every Member of the Internal Committee shall hold office for such period, not exceeding three years, from the date of their nomination as may be specified by the employer.
4.     The Member appointed from amongst the non-governmental organisations or associations shall be paid such fees or allowances for holding the proceedings of the Internal Committee, by the employer, as may be prescribed.
5.     Where the Presiding Officer or any Member of the Internal Committee,- -
a.     contravenes the provisions of section 16; or
b.    has been convicted for an offence or an inquiry into an offence under any law for the time being in force is pending   against him; or
c.     he has been found guilty in any disciplinary proceedings or a disciplinary proceeding is pending against him; or
d.    has so abused his position as to render his continuance in office prejudicial to the public interest, such Presiding Officer or Member, as the case may be, shall be removed from the Committee and the vacancy so created or any casual vacancy shall be filled by fresh nomination in accordance with the provisions of this section.
Complaint of sexual harassment:
Any aggrieved woman may make, in writing, a complaint of sexual harassment at workplace to the Internal Committee if so constituted, or the Local Committee, in case it is not so constituted, within a period of three months from the date of incident and in case of a series of incidents, within a period of three months from the date of last incident:
Provided that where such complaint cannot be made in writing, the Presiding Officer or any Member of the Internal Committee or the Chairperson or any Member of the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall render all reasonable assistance to the woman for making the complaint in writing:
Provided further that the Internal Committee or, as the case may be, the Local Committee may, for the reasons to be recorded in writing, extend the time limit not exceeding three months , if it is satisfied that the circumstances were such which prevented the woman from filing a complaint within the said period.
Where the aggrieved woman is unable to make a complaint on account of her physical or mental incapacity or death or otherwise, her legal heir or such other person as may be prescribed may make a complaint under this section.

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