Sexual harassment at workplace law comes into force -Rakhi Chakrabarty

-The Times of India

NEW DELHI: The law to check Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace came into force this week, about eight months after it received the president's assent.

Union minister for women and child development (WCD) Krishna Tirath told Parliament that the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, came into force from December 9. The ministry also informed the House that complaints of sexual harassment at workplace have increased over the years. Since 2010, the highest number of such complaints, registered with the National Commission for Women (NCW), were from UP (118) followed by Delhi (98), Rajasthan a distant third (42) and Madhya Pradesh (38).

The ministry is writing to state governments to set up local complaints committee (LCC).

The Act prescribes that if the sexual harassment complaint is against the employer, it will be received by the LCC constituted by the district officer - district magistrate or additional district magistrate. The idea is to negate any bias or influence by people in positions of control and authority.

If the law was in force when a woman journalist alleged sexual assault against Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal, the LCC would have dealt with her complaint.

The law makes it mandatory for all offices with 10 or more employees to have an internal complaints committee (ICC) to address grievances in a stipulated time or face penalty. It prescribes strict punishment, including termination of service, for the guilty and similar penalty if a complaint is frivolous.

The employer can be fined upto Rs 50,000 for failure to constitute an ICC to handle sexual harassment complaints. A repeat of the offence will attract double the punishment second time and cancellation or non-renewal of licence or registration after that.

In the aftermath of the Tejpal case, a rift emerged between WCD and law ministry over delay in implementing the law. While WCD blamed the law ministry for delay in approving the rules framed by it, the law ministry reportedly said the WCD was yet to submit final version of rules.

The Times of India, 14 December, 2013,

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