By Anuradha Gandhi and Rupin Chopra
The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 came into force on December 9, 2013 with the objective of providing a mechanism for aggrieved women to be able to get redressal against sexual harassment at the workplace.
The intention behind this article is to be able to explain the mechanism through which the internal complaints committee will conduct the inquiry after a complaint of sexual harassment has been filed by an aggrieved woman.
Handling of POSH Inquiry
If “Radhika” an employee of ABC Pvt. Ltd feels that “Aman” her colleague in the same organization is making unwelcome sexual advances towards her during a meeting and she feels that Aman’s behavior is making her uncomfortable, then she may file a written complaint to the Internal Complaints Committee within a period of three months from date the date of incident regarding the incident that took place with the details of the incident and any witnesses or evidences that she might have.
The Internal Complaints Committee before initiating an enquiry will either try conciliation between two parties, with the consent of the aggrieved woman may take steps to settle the matter. Where settlement arrives, the ICC shall record the settlement so arrived in writing and forward copy to employer.
- Complaint of sexual harassment – Any aggrieved woman may make, in writing, a complaint of sexual harassment at workplace to the Internal Committee within a period of three (3) months from the date of incident and in case of a series of incidents, within a period of three months from the date of last incident.
- Conciliation – The Internal Committee may, before initiating an inquiry under section 11 and at the request of the aggrieved woman take steps to settle the matter between her and the respondent through conciliation.
- Inquiry into complaint – The Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as the case may be, shall, where the respondent is an employee, proceed to make inquiry into the complaint in accordance with the provisions of the service rules applicable to the respondent. Where no such rules exist, the Local Committee shall, if prima facie case exist, forward the complaint to the police, within a period of seven days for registering the case under section 509 of the Indian Penal Code, 1860, and any other relevant provisions of the said Code where applicable. For the purpose of conducting the inquiry, the Internal Committee has powers vested in it as those vested with a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908;
- Action during the pendency of POSH inquiry — During the pendency of an inquiry on a written request made by the aggrieved woman, the Internal Committee may recommend to the employer to—
- (a) transfer the aggrieved woman or the respondent to any other workplace; or
- (b) grant leave to the aggrieved woman up to a period of three (3) months; or
- (c) grant such other interim relief to the aggrieved woman as may be prescribed.
- Inquiry report – On the completion of a POSH inquiry under this Act, the Internal Committee shall provide a report of its findings to the employer within a period of ten (10) days from the date of completion of the inquiry and such report be made available to the concerned parties.
(a) Where the Internal Committee, arrives at the conclusion that the allegation against the respondent has not been proved, it shall recommend to the employer;(b) Where the Internal Committee arrives at the conclusion that the allegation against the respondent has been proved, it shall recommend to the employer –(i)to take action for sexual harassment as a misconduct in accordance with the provisions of the service rules applicable to the respondent or where no such service rules have been made, in such manner as may be prescribed;(ii) to deduct, notwithstanding anything in the service rules applicable to the respondent, from the salary or wages of the respondent such sum as it may consider appropriate to be paid to the aggrieved woman or to her legal heirs, as it may determine, in accordance with the provisions of section 15.
- Determination of compensation – The Internal Committee shall have regard to –
- the mental trauma, pain, suffering and emotional distress caused to the aggrieved woman;
- the loss in the career opportunity due to the incident of sexual harassment;
- medical expenses incurred by the victim for physical or psychiatric treatment;
- the income and financial status of the respondent;
- feasibility of such payment in lump sum or in instalments.
- Appeal – Any person aggrieved from the recommendations of ICC or non-implementation of such recommendations may prefer an appeal to the court or tribunal in accordance with the provisions of the service rules applicable to the said person, the person aggrieved may prefer an appeal in such manner as may be prescribed.
The appeal shall be preferred within a period of ninety (90) days of the recommendations.
Timeline of Redressal Mechanism as per the POSH Act
|Submission of complaint||Within 3 months of the last incident|
|Notice to the Respondent||Within 7 days of receiving copy of the complaint|
|Completion of POSH inquiry||Within 90 days|
|Submission of report by ICC/LCC to the Employer/ DO||Within 10 days of the completion of the POSH inquiry|
|Implementation of recommendations||Within 60 days|
|Appeal||Within 90 days of the recommendations|
Rachita Thakur, Intern at SSRANA has assisted in the research of this article.