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Legal Law To Check Sexual Harassment At Work To Widen Ambit

Jan 1, 2010
New Delhi Years after it was prepared, the draft legislation on protection of women against sexual harassment at workplaces is likely to come up for discussion in the Cabinet during this month. The Bill proposes to bring under its ambit both the private and the unorganised sector.

All undertakings, enterprises, institutions, establishments, societies, trusts, NGOs, service providers engaged in professional, vocational, educational, industrial, health or financial activities like production, supply, sale and distribution, as well as hospitals and nursing homes will be covered under the proposed Bill. The unorganised sector, described as a workplace owned by individuals or self employed workers and engaged in the production or sale of goods or providing service of any kind will also be under its ambit.

Once passed by Parliament, it may be called Protection of Women against Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2010. The draft legislation envisages that every workplace, whether organised or unorganised, should have an “internal complaints committee” with members nominated by the employer. In absence of such a committee, the draft Bill envisages a penalty provision, including de-registration of the institution or a fine of Rs 50,000 for the first-time offence. “The district officer will be made liable to see that all organised sector have such committees. For the second offence, the employer will be liable to twice the punishment imposed earlier. The penalty includes withdrawal of licence or de-registration,” said a senior official in the Ministry of Women and Child Development.

The internal complaint committee should have a minimum of two and a maximum of 10 members and the presiding officer should be a woman. “While one of the members will be from the institution, necessarily a woman, one more should be from an NGO. The penalty will be as per the decision of the committee,” said the official. There may be cases where the internal complaints committee is not feasible — like in unorganised sector organisations with less than 10 or where the complaint is against the employer himself. To address such issues, the district officer shall constitute at every block “additional local committee” for that area concerned.

The draft Bill, which has come from the Law Ministry after being vetted by experts, includes a new clause, 2 (a), which defines an aggrieved woman, bringing , research scholars and patients within the ambit of the proposed law. The draft Bill has a provision that in case a woman is not satisfied with the conclusion of the committee, she may go to the District Magistrate or appeal to the court.

According to the proposed Bill, sexual harassment means “an unwelcome sexually determined behaviour whether directly or by implication which includes physical contact and advances or demand or request for sexual favours, sexually coloured remarks, showing pornography, or any other unwelcome physical, verbal conduct of sexual nature”.


Rajneesh Madhok
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