By Anuradha Gandhi and Isha Sharma
It has been recently brought to light in a report by The Times of India on September 26, 2023 that multiple departments and organisations within the Delhi government have recently initiated the establishment of the Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) to handle issues faced by women employees at workplaces, as said by a Senior Delhi Government Officer. These actions came in response to directives from Ms. Atishi, the Hon’ble Minister of Women and Child Development (WCD).
Despite the POSH Act of 2013 mandating the formation of an ICC in every office or branch employing 10 or more individuals, it was reported by the sources that such committees were lacking in most Delhi government departments.
“I am ashamed of this behaviour on our part.. I am both alarmed and disappointed by the department’s inability to identify and take action against this repeated pattern of harassment by an employee of the WCD. When multiple complaints come up against the same employee, surely it needs to ring alarm bells in our mind and a deeper investigation should be warranted,” the minister said.
The “exceptionally disturbing incident” is a “wakeup call for us,” Atishi said, while asking the Hon’ble Chief Secretary to draft comprehensive processes and rules for strengthening the redressal mechanisms across departments to avoid such incidents in the future. Alongside, it was said that a system will soon be developed to flag cases when an official of all departments have been accused of sexual harassment and intimidation “repeatedly”.
In response to these instructions, several departments have acted swiftly. For instance, the Office of the Registrar of Cooperative Societies has recently constituted a five-member departmental committee, headed by an assistant registrar, for the purpose of redressing complaints of female employees, as said by a senior official requesting anonymity. This committee aims to encourage women employees to come forward with any sexual harassment grievances, and regular meetings will be convened under the presiding officer’s guidance.
“We are suitably promoting the formation of the committee among employees in our office. Women employees in our office can come forward with complaints of sexual harassment, if any. Periodic meeting will be convened by the presiding officer,” the official said.
Moreover, there are reports of other departments also “re-constituting” similar committees. Atishi has been actively involved in enhancing the effectiveness and responsiveness of ICCs across various departments. The need to strengthen ICCs is imperative, as it was revealed that the women and child development departments’ committee had previously dismissed complaints of sexual harassment citing reasons such as “casual remarks (were) made by officers and staff” and “lack of clarity with regard to administrative matters”.
Atishi futher emphasizes that ICCs should have the authority to question even senior officials, underlining the importance of their composition. These efforts aim to create a safer and more equitable working environment for all employees in Delhi’s government offices.