Ensure ICCs Are Constituted Under POSH Act : Supreme Court To All Govts, Statutory Professional Bodies, Universities Etc

Team SoOLEGAL 31 May 2023 5:13pm

Ensure ICCs Are Constituted Under POSH Act : Supreme Court To All Govts, Statutory Professional Bodies, Universities Etc

New Delhi: In a significant judgment, the Supreme Court of India gave a series of directions for the appropriate implementation of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition, and Redressal) Act, 2013 [POSH Act] throughout the country.

The Act was enacted to protect women from sexual harassment in the workplace.

The Court has ordered the Union Government, State Governments, and Union Territories to investigate whether all ministries, departments, and other government organisations have established committees where victims of sexual harassment can file complaints.

Notably, the Court has also instructed that such statutory bodies of professions such as the Bar Council of India, the National Medical Commission, and the Institute of Chartered Accountants of India, etc.

The bench of Justices AS Bopanna and Hima Kohli expressed sadness over the circumstances. The Court highlighted that all state employees, public authorities, private businesses, organisations, and institutions are responsible for carrying out the POSH Act spirit.

The Court also issued the following directions to guarantee that the POSH Act is rigorously and properly implemented:

  • The Union of India, all State Governments, and Union Territories are directed to conduct a time-bound exercise to determine whether all relevant ministries, departments, government organisations, authorities, public sector undertakings, institutions, bodies, and soon have formed ICCs, LCS, or ICs, as the case may be, and that their composition is strictly in accordance with the provisions of the POSH Act.
  • It shall be ensured that necessary information regarding the constitution and composition of the ICCS/LCS/ICs, details of the designated person(s)' e-mail IDs and contact numbers, the procedure prescribed for submitting an online complaint, as well as the relevant rules, regulations, and internal policies, is readily available on the website of the concerned authority, functionary, organization, institution, or body. The information provided must also be regularly updated.
  • All statutory bodies of professionals at the national and state levels (including those that regulate doctors, lawyers, architects, chartered accountants, cost accountants, engineers, bankers, and other professionals), universities, colleges, training centres,  educational institutions, and government and private hospitals/nursing homes must conduct a similar exercise.
  • Authorities, management, and employers must take immediate and effective steps to familiarise members of the ICCs, LCs, and ICs with their duties and the manner in which an inquiry should be conducted following the receipt of a complaint of sexual harassment at work, from the time the complaint is received until the inquiry is finally concluded and the report is submitted.
  • Authorities, management, and employers must conduct frequent orientation programmes, workshops, seminars, and awareness programmes to upskill members of the ICCS, LCS, and ICs and educate female employees and women's groups on the provisions of the Act, the Rules, and relevant laws.
  • The National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and the State Legal Services Authorities (SLSAs) will create modules and organize awareness campaigns to familiarise authorities, management, employers, employees, and adolescent groups with the provisions of the Act, which will be included in their annual calendar.
  • The National Judicial Academy and the State Judicial Academies shall include orientation programmes, seminars, and workshops in their annual calendars to build the capacity of members of the ICCs, LCs, and ICS established in the High Courts and District Courts, as well as to draught Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for conducting an investigation under the Act and Rules.

 The Court emphasised that the POSH Act can never succeed in safeguarding women's dignity and respect at work unless and until the enforcement regime is properly applied and all state and non-state actors take a proactive approach.

 The court further stated, "If the working environment remains hostile, insensitive, and unresponsive to the needs of female employees, the Act will be a hollow formality." If the authorities, managers, and employers cannot ensure them of a safe and secure work environment, they will be afraid to leave their homes to make a decent income and fully utilise their potential and talents. "It is thus time for the Union Government and the State Governments to take affirmative action and ensure that the altruistic goal of enacting the POSH Act is realised in real terms."

 As a result, the Court directed that a copy of the judgement be sent to the secretaries of all ministries in the Government of India, who will ensure that the directions are followed by all departments, statutory authorities, institutions, and organizations under the control of the respective ministries.

Tagged: POSH Act  
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