Explained: When and where the sexual harassment law holds, against whom

Explained: When and where the sexual harassment law holds, against whom

If the woman no longer works, or has never worked in the same organization as the man who committed the sexual harassment, which authority should she approach?1. If the sexual harassment took place while she was employed by the organization, she can file a complaint even after she has left. If she had never been employed by the organization, she may file a complaint with the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) of the organization where the man works, if the harassment has taken place in the course of work, or in relation to the man’s professional activities.

2. The woman may also file a complaint before the Local Complaints Committee, which is to be constituted in every district.
3. The woman may also opt to file a criminal complaint under IPC Section 354A and other relevant sections. The law allows the woman to access remedies under civil and criminal law simultaneously.
Up to when can a complaint be reasonably followed up?The Act provides for a limitation of 90 days for filing of complaints; this may be extended by another 90 days by the Internal Committee if the delay is reasonably explained.

In criminal law, there is a limitation period ranging from one year to three years depending on the nature of the offence. There is no limitation period for filing a complaint of rape with the police.

In Punita K Sodhi v Union of India and Ors (2010), Delhi High Court held that the concept of limitation may not find relevance in a case of sexual harassment, as sexual harassment ought not to be viewed as a one-time incident, but the impact of sexual harassment must be taken into consideration to understand it as a continuing wrong.
Some medical, journalism and legal professionals have complained of harassment from men they have met for professional reasons on neutral territory outside the workplaces of both. Can her employers take up her complaint with his employers, or should the police be involved?1. A complaint can be filed with regard to any incident of sexual harassment which takes place in the course of work, or in the course of activities associated with discharge of professional duties.
2. If the sexual harassment is committed on “neutral territory” the woman can file a complaint with the Internal Committee of her organization.
3. However, this IC may not have the power to impose an effective penalty on the man who committed the harassment. The woman may file a complaint with the IC of the organization that the man is employed with.
If the alleged incident involves individuals working in the same organisation, but has taken place in a private space outside the premises of the workplace and outside of work hours, will that be a fit case to be taken up by their employer?It must be kept in mind that even while the act of sexual harassment has taken place in a private space outside of work hours, the relationship between the two parties has arisen during the course of work, and these two persons will continue to share a professional relationship.
On whom does the burden of proof lie when there are no witnesses to the alleged incident?The burden of proof, whether in civil or in criminal proceedings, always and only lies with the woman who makes the complaint.

In criminal proceedings the charge will have to be proved beyond reasonable doubt, since the penalty involves restraint on personal liberty.

In civil proceedings, the standard of proof is preponderance of probabilities, since the penalties are civil in nature.
Do certain circumstances, such as one or both parties having consumed alcohol, constitute legitimate defense for an action that the woman deems to be sexual harassment?The consumption of alcohol or atmosphere of a party are not defenses for transgressions over a woman’s sovereign right over her body, either in law or in civilized behavior
Can a past or continuing romantic relationship constitute legitimate defence for an action that the woman deems to be sexual harassment?No, it cannot be a defense, particularly since recent judgments of the Supreme Court including on Privacy and Adultery recognize the bodily and sexual autonomy of women as a fundamental right.

It is important to note that the employer has a duty to provide a safe work environment for all employees irrespective of the past or present relationship between the two parties
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