The Sexual Harassment of
Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, 2012 was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 26th February 2013.
Lok Sabha has passed it in September 2012.
Sexual Harassment at workplace is a violation of women’s right to
gender equality, life and liberty. It creates an insecure and hostile work
environment, which discourages women’s participation in work, thereby adversely
affecting their economic empowerment and the goal of inclusive growth.
However, there is no domestic law to address this issue except a few provisions
of the Indian Penal Code and the Supreme Court Guidelines in the case of Vishaka
vs. State of Rajasthan. The increasing work participation rate
of women has made it imperative that a comprehensive legislation focusing on
prevention of sexual harassment as well as providing a redressal mechanism be
salient features of the Act are as follows:
(i) It defines “sexual
harassment at the workplace” in a comprehensive manner, in keeping with the
definition laid down in the Vishaka judgment,
and broadening it further to cover circumstances of implied or explicit promise
or threat to a woman’s employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment
or humiliating treatment, which can affect her health or safety.
(ii) The definition of
“aggrieved woman”, who will get protection under the Act is extremely wide to
cover all women, irrespective of her age or employment status, whether in the
organised or unorganised sectors, public or private and covers clients, customers
and domestic workers as well.
(iii) While the “workplace” in the Vishaka guidelines is confined to the traditional office set-up
where there is a clear employer-employee relationship, the Act goes much
further to include organisations, department, office, branch unit etc in the
public and private sector, organized and unorganized, hospitals, nursing homes,
educational institutions, sports institutes, stadiums, sports complex and any
place visited by the employee during the course of employment including the
of employee covers regular/temporary/ad hoc/daily
wage employees, whether for remuneration or not and can also include
volunteers. The definition of employer includes the head of the Government
department/organisation/institution/office/branch/unit, the person responsible
for management/supervisions/control of the workplace, the person discharging
contractual obligations with respect to his/her employees and in relation to a
domestic worker the person who benefits from that employment.
(v) The redressal mechanism provided in
the Act is in the form of Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) and Local
Complaints Committee (LCC). All workplaces employing 10 or more
than 10 workers are mandated under the Act to constitute an ICC. The ICC will
be a 4 member committee under the Chairpersonship of a senior woman employee and
will include 2 members from amongst the employees preferably committed to the
cause of women or has experience in social work/legal knowledge and includes a
third party member (NGO etc) as well.
(vi) Complaints from workplaces employing less
than 10 workers or when the complaint is against the employer will be looked
into by the LCC. A District Officer
notified under the Act will constitute the LCC at the district level. LCC will
also look into complaints from domestic workers.
(vii) LCC will be a five member
committee comprising of a chairperson to be nominated from amongst eminent
women in the field of social work or committed to the cause of women, one
member from amongst women working in block/taluka/tehsil/manicipality in the
district, two members of whom at least one shall be a woman to be nominated
from NGOs committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues
related to sexual harassment provided that at least one of the nominees should
preferably have a background in law or legal knowledge. The concerned officer
dealing with the social welfare or women and child development shall be an ex
(viii) A complaint of sexual harassment can be filed
within a time limit of 3 months. This may be extended to another 3 months if
the woman can prove that grave circumstances prevented her from doing the same.
(ix) The Act has a provision for conciliation.
The ICC/LCC can take steps to settle the matter between the aggrieved woman and
the respondent, however this option will be used only at the request of the
woman. The Act also provides that monetary settlement shall not be made a basis
of conciliation. Further, if any of the conditions of the settlement is not
complied with by the respondent, the complainant can go back to the Committee who
will proceed to make an inquiry.
(x) The Committee is required to complete the
inquiry within a time period of 90 days. On completion of the inquiry, the
report will be sent to the employer or the District Officer, as the case may be,
they are mandated to take action on the report within 60 days.
(xi) In case the complaint has
been found proved, then the Committee can recommend action in accordance with
the provision of service rules applicable to the respondent or as per the rules
which will be prescribed, where such service rules do not exist. The committee
can also recommend deduction of an appropriate sum from the salary of the
respondent or ask respondent to pay the sum. In case the respondent fails to
pay such sum, district officer may be asked to recover such sum as an arrear of
(xii) In case the allegation
against the respondent has not been proved then the Committee can write to the
employer/district officer that no action needs to be taken in the matter.
(xiii) In case of malicious or
false complaint then the Act provides for a penalty according to the Service
Rules. However, this clause has a safeguard in the form of an enquiry prior to
establishing the malicious intent. Also, mere inability to prove the case will
not attract penalty under this provision.
(xiv) The Act has provisions for
providing reliefs to the aggrieved
woman in the interim period including leave and transfer during the
pendency of the inquiry.
(xv) The Act prohibits disclosure
of the identity and addresses of the aggrieved woman, respondent and witnesses.
However, information regarding the justice secured to any victim of sexual
harassment under this Act without disclosing the identity can be disseminated.
(xvi) The Act casts a
responsibility on every employer to create an environment which is free from
sexual harassment. Employers are required to organize workshops and awareness
programmes at regular intervals for sensitizing the employees about the provision
of this legislation and display notices regarding the constitution of Internal Committee,
penal consequences of sexual harassment etc.
(xvii) An employer will be liable
to a fine of Rs 50,000 in case of violation of his duties under the Act and in
case of subsequent violations the amount of fine will be double together with
penalty in the form of cancelation of his licence, withdrawal or non-withdrawal
of the registration required for carrying out his activity.
(xviii) In case of domestic worker
the procedure is different considering the nature of employment. A domestic
worker can approach the LCC in case of any complaint. If the complainant wishes
then conciliation may be carried out. However, in other cases if the complaint
is proved prima facie then the LCC can forward the complaint to the police for
registering the case and taking appropriate action under the relevant provision
(xix) Regarding monitoring, the Act
provides that the State
Governments will monitor implementation and maintain data for all State Government
establishments as well as private establishments in their territory. For
establishments of the Central Government this duty is cast on the Government of
India. All ICCs have to submit Annual
reports to the employer who inturn will submit it to the district officer. All
LCCs shall submit their annual report to the district officer. The district
officers will submit the report annually to the State Governments.
(xx) The Central and State
Governments are mandated to develop relevant IEC and training materials and
organise awareness programmes to advance the understanding of the public on the
provisions of this Bill.
(xxi) The Central Government will provide
financial assistance to the States to meet the expenditure of fee and
allowances payable to the members of the Local Complaints Committee.