The success or failure of a legislation is not decided merely by how airtight the law may look on paper or the intentions with which it has been drafted. Once passed, it is the implementation of the law that decides whether the law has actually achieved all that it aims to or not. The same holds good for the Prevention of Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 ("Act"). No matter how many bodies are created for the appropriate implementation of the Act, in the end, it is dependent on whether these bodies are made up of the appropriate and qualified people.
But who exactly are these people? Granted, the laws do lay down the criteria, based on which the people are to be appointed to a particular position. However, filling these positions is not as much about finding the right characteristics, but rather, finding the right people.
Where the persons are merely to be appointed, the vital element is “how” these people are to be found. A counter view is observed in the cases where the people to be appointed are required to possess certain characteristics or qualifications, in which case, the issue becomes about “who” is to be found.
Internal Complaints Committee (ICC)
The Internal Complaints Committee (hereinafter referred to as ICC) is a body that is to be created by the employer, where the aggrieved women can file her complaint. An ICC is required to be constituted by all employers who have ten or more workers employed. Where a particular organisation has offices, which are located in different areas or at different levels, they are liable to constitute an ICC at every unit or office.
There are certain criteria to be kept in mind while the members are appointed. The members of the ICC are to be selected both, from within the organisation, as well as external members. The members of the ICC hold office for a period specified by the employer, not exceeding three years. The internal members of the ICC are important as they have an understanding of the working of the organisation. On the contrary, the external member provides a measure of objectivity and maintains a wholly unbiased view.
District Officers under the Act
A District Officer is to be appointed by the State Government in every District. The Government notifies one of the following persons as District Officer:
Additional District Magistrate
Awareness regarding the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013 is not even close to where the lawmakers would have intended it to be. For that matter, a majority of workers are currently unclear about the very definition of sexual harassment. In order to remedy this very issue, the District Officer is bound to take necessary actions, collaborating with non-governmental organisations to ensure greater awareness among women regarding the issue of sexual harassment as well as their rights relating to the same.
Local Complaints Committee
A Local Complaints Committee (or LCC) is a body that is to be constituted in every district by the respective District Officer. The LCC hears complaints relating to offences of sexual harassment from those establishments which do not have ICCs by virtue of there being fewer than ten employees in the establishment. While it is mandatory that an LCC be constituted in every district, the unfortunate reality is that it does not happen, and even when it does, a majority of the people are unaware about it.
The LCC is the body which aggrieved parties can approach when there is no ICC in their organisation. It is of extreme importance, therefore, that the members of the LCC be chosen with due regard to the gravity of their post as well as the necessary duties they are expected to perform. The members of the LCC are expected to have an objective view of the cases which come before them, as they would be redressing complaints from multiple organisations which would have diverse environments.
An LCC has jurisdiction over the entire district in which it is constituted. Further, the tenure of the members is to be specified by the District Officer, not exceeding three years.
Complaints of sexual harassment are no trivial matter, and the mere fact that the personal space of the victim has been violated in such a manner demands nothing short of the best efforts from the best people for the same. Sadly, that is not the case, and the creation of the committees and appointments of the members as well as the District Officers are seldom done in accordance with what was intended. Attention is neither paid to the people nor to finding the . This article and the ones following will aim to bring attention to the importance of these bodies and positions as well as lay out the manner in which the persons are selected for the same.
Apart from the legal requirements for selecting such people, the subsequent articles also look at the potential complexities that could arise in a majority of the cases, as well as the manner in which such issues have arisen in recent real world developments. Considering the gravity of the situation, there is one thing that can be said with absolute surety, “one can never give too much importance to such issues”.
(This blog was initially published on "UngenderInsights", a knowledge repository of Ungender Advisory)
Ungender is also conducting a Webinar on the nuances of practical implementation of this law in workplaces. The details and link to registration can be found here.
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