Sexual harassment of women at workplace is civil, criminal offence: Kedia

Source: The Hitavada      Date: 12 Jul 2017 10:08:03


Business Bureau,

THE Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 deals with safety of women. “It is not about women employees but for any woman who comes in the organisation for any purpose like job seeking, vendor, client, etc,” said Vishal Kedia, founder and Director of Complykaro Services Pvt. Ltd., Mumbai.

He was speaking at a workshop organised by Vidarbha Industries Association HRD Forum on ‘Implementing the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act, 2013,’ on Tuesday evening.

Kedia said, one recent legislation enacted by the Government of India which had gone unnoticed was ‘The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013’ and it had to be mandatorily complied with by every organisation whether it had women employees or not. Every organisation, i.e. public limited company, private limited company, limited liability partnership, partnership firms, association, society, trust, proprietorship, NGO, etc., irrespective of size and number of employees, had to comply with the said Act. Kedia pointed out that it was mandatory for organisations employing 10 or more people to set up the Internal Compliance Committee (ICC) and create awareness about the provisions of the law irrespective of whether they had any women employees or not.

“Sexual harassment is now a civil and criminal offence and organisations must comply with the Act or face severe punishment. For instance, a company at Chennai -- where a case of sexual harassment was reported -- was fined Rs 1.68 crore about 3 years ago for not complying with the law or risk criminal prosecution of management as in the case of CEO of an international airlines,” he said.

He said that the entire emphasis of the law was on prevention and it put specific emphasis on the organisation’s obligation to organise awareness programmes for sensitisation of employees with the provisions of the Act as well as skill building programmes for ICC members. Such details had to be disclosed in the annual report to be filed by the ICC with the District Officer.

“The Deputy Collector in Nagpur is the District Officer,” Kedia said.
He said: “Industries may be aware that non-compliance with The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 can lead to huge penalty, closure of business and risk of incarceration for the management of such organisation.”

“The compliance with the said Act needs to be reported in the annual report to be filed by the organisations for each financial year. By complying with the said law, the management of organisations can shield themselves from any legal consequences and ensure that prompt remedial action is taken against the perpetrator, i.e. the accused in case of genuine complaints and the complainant in case of false and malicious complaints,” Kedia noted. He said that the ICC should have 50 per cent of women as members and there should be redressal in 90 days after the complaint is filed.

He explained that sexual harassment included any or more unwelcome acts or behaviour (whether directly or by implication) like physical contact and advances or a demand or request for sexual favours, or making sexually coloured remarks, or showing pornography, or any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of the
sexual nature.

Earlier, Atul Pande, President of VIA welcomed the guest speaker with a floral bouquet. Omprakash Bagdia, Vice-President of VIA made the introductory remarks and introduced the speaker. Prof Ashit Sinha, former Vice-President of VIA proposed the vote of thanks.
Prominently present on the occasion was Dr Suhas Buddhe, Secretary of VIA.

The programme was largely attended by representatives
from industries.