Introduction: Sexual harassment is unwelcome or inappropriate actions from mild transgressions to sexual abuse or assault. It is a form of gender discrimination which violates fundamental right under Article 14, 15 and 21 of the Constitution of India which guarantees right to equality and right to life.
Employer is obliged to provide safe workplace for all his employees and avoid gender based discrimination.
(Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 commonly as “POSH Act” was the first legislative move which addresses workplace sexual harassment issues enacted by Ministry of Women and Child Development India in 2013 and is applicable whole India.
Applicability: Act applies on both organized and unorganized sectors of India including government bodies, private and public sectors, non-government organizations and other organizations engaged in carrying out vocations, commercial, entertainment, industrial, financial activities, hospitals training institutes such as educational, sports and stadium and dwelling house too.
Objective: Main objective of this Act was to equip employer to provide women safe and secure workplace and effective redressal of complaints and proper implication of provisions of the statue.
Obligation of Employer: Employer are obligated to main dignified and safe work place, which prevents sexual harassment. Employer is responsible to take responsible steps to prevent harassment at work place accompanied with a written policy and procedure.Employer should form anti-harassment policy which clearly include the followings:
1. Define what harassment is.
2. Ask employees to not tolerate it.
3. Mention detailed mechanism by which employees can address complaints regarding sexual harassment.
4. Develop anti-sexual harassment policy after having discussing with employees, and manager.
5. Monitor timely redressal of complaints by Internal Complaints Committee.
6. Organize workshops and awareness programmes on issues regarding workplace harassment and orientation programs for committee members.
Establishment of Internal Complaints Committee(ICC): PoSH requires to set up an Internal Complaints Committee at each office or branch of organization, to hear and readdress grievances pertaining to sexual harassment. ICC should be constituted of following members.
1. Presiding officer- A women employed at the senior level at the workplace from amongst the employees.
2. Members- Minimum 2 members amongst employees who are committed to the cause of women or have legal knowledge or are associated in social work.
3. External Members- from an NGO or association committed to the cause of women or personal issues relating to sexual harassment.
Atleast 50% of the total members so nominated shall be women. Thus ICC should consist of minimum 4 members of which atleast two shall be women.
• Term of IC members shall not exceed years
• For conducting any inquiry at least IC members should be present.
Establishment of Local Committee (LC): A committee known as Local Complaints Committee shall be constituted in every district. The District Officer shall constitute the Local Complaints Committee(LC) in the concerned district. LC is constituted to investigate and readdress the complaints lodged on sexual harassment received from unorganized sector and where ICC is not constituted due to no of employees employed is less than 10 .LC is relevant to harassment of domestic workers or where the complaints is made by employer or any other third party who is not an employee of that organization.
• Chairperson : A women who is social worker and who is committed to clause of women;
• Local women : one women who has is nominated amongst the working women in that block or tehsil or ward.
• NGO Members: 2 women one should be from NGO or from association who is committed to cause of women or person familiar with issues pertaining to sexual harassment.1 should have a law background and at least 1 women from Schedule Caste / Schedule tribe
Powers with ICC/LC: ICC and LC have a same powers vested in Code of Civil Procedure 1908. While trying suits in regards of sexual harassment:
1. Summoning and enforcing attendance of any person and examining on oath.
2. Requiring the discovery and production of any document.
3. And any other power as may be prescribed.
Consequences of Non-compliance: when employer fails to comply with PoSH a monetary penalty of up to Rs. 50,000 may be imposed and in case of repletion of the same cloud result in further punishment such as de registration of an entity or revocation of any statutory license.
Annual Report: ICC or LC shall in each calendar year prepare an annual report and submit the same to employer and the District Officer. The District Officer shall forward a brief report on the annual report received to the State Government.
Disclosure in Board Report in case of Company: It is now compulsory for a company to make a statement in the Director’s Report that it has complied with the provisions regarding the constitution of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC).