Lack of committees against sexual harassment is disquieting, says SC

Source: The post is based on the article “Lack of committees against sexual harassment is disquieting, says SC” published in The Hindu on 13th May 2023

What is the News?

The Supreme Court has said that there are “serious lapses” and “uncertainty” in the implementation of the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Act leaving many working women no choice but to leave their jobs.

What are the observations made by the Supreme Court on the PoSH Act?

Working women are reluctant to report instances of sexual harassment either due to uncertainty about whom to approach or because of their lack of confidence in the process itself and its outcome.

The court referred to a newspaper survey which revealed that out of 30 national sports federations in the country, only 16 had constituted Internal Complaints Committees mandated under the 2013 Act.

Hence, the court directed the Union, States and Union Territories to undertake a time-bound exercise to verify whether Ministries, Departments, government organizations, authorities etc had constituted Internal Complaints Committees (ICCs) under the Act. 

These bodies have been ordered to publish the details of their respective committees on their websites.

What is the Protection of Women from Sexual Harassment (PoSH) Act,2013?

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What does the PoSH Act say about the complaints’ committee?

The PoSH Act mandates that every employer must constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each office or branch that has 10 or more employees. It defined various aspects of sexual harassment and lay down procedures for action in case of a complaint.

What is the procedure for a complaint under the Act?

It is not compulsory for the aggrieved victim to file a complaint for the ICC to take action. If the woman cannot complain because of physical or mental incapacity or death or otherwise, her legal heir may do so.

Under the Act, the complaint must be made within three months from the date of the incident. However, the ICC can “extend the time limit” if it is satisfied that the circumstances were such which prevented the woman from filing a complaint within the said period.

After receiving the complaint, the ICC may either forward the victim’s complaint to the police or it can start an inquiry that has to be completed within 90 days. The ICC has powers similar to those of a civil court in respect of summoning and examining any person on oath and requiring the discovery and production of documents.

When the inquiry is completed, the ICC must provide a report of its findings to the employer within 10 days. The report must also be made available to both parties.

If either the aggrieved woman or the respondent is not satisfied, they may appeal in court within 90 days.

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