LAW RESOURCE INDIA

Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010 approved by Cabinet

The Union Cabinet today approved the introduction of the Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Bill, 2010 in the Parliament to ensure a safe environment for women at work places, both in public and private sectors whether organised or unorganized. The measure will help in achieving gender empowerment and equality.

The proposed Bill, if enacted, will ensure that women are protected against sexual harassment at all the work places, be it in public or private. This will contribute to realisation of their right to gender equality, life and liberty and equality in working conditions everywhere. The sense of security at the workplace will improve women’s participation in work, resulting in their economic empowerment and inclusive growth.

Salient features of the Bill are as follows:

The Bill proposes a definition of sexual harassment, which is as laid down by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997). Additionally it recognises the promise or threat to a woman’s employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment as ‘sexual harassment’ at workplace and expressly seeks to prohibit such acts.

The Bill provides protection not only to women who are employed but also to any woman who enters the workplace as a client, customer, apprentice, and daily wageworker or in ad-hoc capacity. Students, research scholars in colleges/university and patients in hospitals have also been covered. Further, the Bill seeks to cover workplaces in the unorganised sectors.

The Bill provides for an effective complaints and redressal mechanism. Under the proposed Bill, every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee. Since a large number of the establishments (41.2 million out of 41.83 million as per Economic Census, 2005) in our country have less than 10 workers for whom it may not be feasible to set up an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC), the Bill provides for setting up of Local Complaints Committee (LCC) to be constituted by the designated District Officer at the district or sub-district levels, depending upon the need. This twin mechanism would ensure that women in any workplace, irrespective of its size or nature, have access to a redressal mechanism. The LCCs will enquire into the complaints of sexual harassment and recommend action to the employer or District Officer.

Employers who fail to comply with the provisions of the proposed Bill will be punishable with a fine which may extend to ` 50,000.

Since there is a possibility that during the pendency of the enquiry the woman may be subject to threat and aggression, she has been given the option to seek interim relief in the form of transfer either of her own or the respondent or seek leave from work.

The Complaint Committees are required to complete the enquiry within 90 days and a period of 60 days has been given to the employer/District Officer for implementation of the recommendations of the Committee.

The Bill provides for safeguards in case of false or malicious complaint of sexual harassment. However, mere inability to substantiate the complaint or provide adequate proof would not make the complainant liable for punishment.

Implementation of the Bill will be the responsibility of the Central Government in case of its own undertakings/establishments and of the State Governments in respect of every workplace established, owned, controlled or wholly or substantially financed by it as well as of private sector establishments falling within their territory. Besides, the State and Central Governments will oversee implementation as the proposed Bill casts a duty on the Employers to include a Report on the number of cases filed and disposed of in their Annual Report. Organizations, which do not prepare Annual Reports, would forward this information to the District Officer.

Through this implementation mechanism, every employer has the primary duty to implement the provisions of law within his/her establishment while the State and Central Governments have been made responsible for overseeing and ensuring overall implementation of the law. The Governments will also be responsible for maintaining data on the implementation of the Law. In this manner, the proposed Bill will create an elaborate system of reporting and checks and balances, which will result in effective implementation of the Law.

6 Responses

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  1. Sanjukta said, on November 9, 2010 at 03:31

    Any idea how does the bill define a workplace? Its important to have an inclusive definition of both ‘workplace’ and ‘sexual harassment’

  2. annonymous said, on November 10, 2010 at 08:57

    My boss use to sexually abuse me. When I retaliated he took revenge professionally as he has power. Even top mgmt knws abt his behaviour but nothing is done against him. Plz someone help.

  3. […] The bill, following closely on the definitions and guidelines issed by the 1990 Apex Court ruling, seems to have tried to bypass logistical difficulties in implementing the said guidelines. A detailed analysis of the Bill is available here. […]

  4. Vijay said, on November 25, 2010 at 14:52

    The Bill defines a workplace and sexual harassment as is laid down in the Vishaka guidelines.
    VJ

  5. Vijay said, on November 25, 2010 at 14:58

    Agreed that the bill is indeed a great step in providing a safe work environment for women in India. It also covers women in the unorganized sector and service takers. This is the a key step from Vishaka guidelines. The Bill also has a well defined process for its implementation.

    The next step would be to cover male employees from organized and unorganized and service takers into the scope of sexual harassment. At the current time, there is no legal recognition for the hostility faced by men at a workplace or as a service receiver.

  6. prassoon said, on January 20, 2011 at 09:33

    This bill is another tool for extortion just like IPC 498a. Wait and watch


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