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Complaint and Inquiry


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Complaint

Filing a Complaint of Sexual Harassment


Section 9 of the Act specifies the procedure for filing a complaint of sexual harassment at the workplace:


Time Limit: Any aggrieved woman has the right to file a written complaint of sexual harassment within three months from the date of the incident. In the case of a series of incidents, the complaint must be lodged within three months from the date of the last incident.


Assistance in Writing: If the woman is unable to file a written complaint, the Presiding Officer or any Member of the Internal Committee or the Chairperson or any Member of the Local Committee must provide reasonable assistance to help her document the complaint.


Extension of Time: In exceptional circumstances where the woman couldn't file the complaint within the stipulated three-month period, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, as applicable, may extend the time limit for up to three months. However, this extension must be justified in writing, citing the reasons for the delay.


Representation: If the aggrieved woman is unable to file a complaint due to physical or mental incapacity, death, or any other reason, her legal heir or any other person prescribed by law may file a complaint on her behalf under this section.


By adhering to these provisions, individuals can ensure the timely and proper filing of complaints of sexual harassment, thus facilitating a fair and effective resolution process.



Conciliation Process

Section 10 outlines the conciliation process that may be initiated by the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, upon the request of the aggrieved woman:


Initiation of Conciliation: Before initiating a formal inquiry under Section 11, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee, upon the request of the aggrieved woman, may attempt to settle the matter between her and the respondent through conciliation.


Prohibition on Monetary Settlement: It's important to note that no monetary settlement can be made as a basis for conciliation. This ensures that the resolution process remains fair and impartial.


Recording of Settlement: If a settlement is reached through conciliation, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee must record the terms of the settlement and forward it to the employer or the District Officer for further action as recommended.


Providing Copies of Settlement: Copies of the recorded settlement must be provided to both the aggrieved woman and the respondent by the Internal Committee or the Local Committee.


Effect on Further Inquiry: If a settlement is successfully reached through conciliation, no further inquiry will be conducted by the Internal Committee or the Local Committee regarding the matter.


By offering a conciliation option, the law aims to facilitate amicable resolutions to complaints of sexual harassment while respecting the rights and interests of all parties involved.

 
 

Inquiry into Complaints

Section 11 provides the process for conducting an inquiry into complaints of sexual harassment:


Initiation of Inquiry: The Internal Committee or the Local Committee, depending on the case, shall commence an inquiry into the complaint lodged by the aggrieved woman. If the respondent is an employee, the inquiry will be conducted in accordance with the applicable service rules. In the absence of such rules, the inquiry will proceed as prescribed. 


However, if the respondent is a domestic worker, and a prima facie case exists, the Local Committee must forward the complaint to the police for further action within seven days, under section 509 of the Indian Penal Code and any other relevant provisions.


Non-compliance with Settlement: If the aggrieved woman informs the committee that any term or condition of the settlement reached through conciliation has not been met by the respondent, the committee must proceed with the inquiry or forward the complaint to the police, as applicable.


Opportunity for Hearing: Both parties, if they are employees, must be given an opportunity to be heard during the inquiry process. Additionally, they should receive a copy of the findings to enable them to make representations against the findings before the committee.


Court Order: If the respondent is convicted of the offense under section 509 of the Indian Penal Code, the court may order the payment of appropriate sums to the aggrieved woman, considering the provisions of section 15.


Powers of the Committee: For the purpose of conducting the inquiry, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee is vested with powers akin to those of a civil court under the Code of Civil Procedure, 1908. These powers include summoning and examining witnesses under oath, requesting the production of documents, and any other matter prescribed by law.


Timeframe: The inquiry must be completed within ninety days from its initiation.


By outlining a structured inquiry process, this section ensures a fair and expeditious resolution of complaints of sexual harassment in the workplace.



Action During Inquiry

Section 12 outlines the actions that can be taken during the pendency of an inquiry into a complaint:


  • Recommendations: Upon a written request from the aggrieved woman, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee may recommend certain actions to the employer, including:

   - Transferring the aggrieved woman or the respondent to another workplace.

   - Granting leave to the aggrieved woman for a period of up to three months.

   - Providing any other relief to the aggrieved woman as prescribed.


  • Additional Leave: Any leave granted to the aggrieved woman under this section is in addition to any other leave entitlement she may have.


  • Implementation: Upon receiving recommendations from the committee, the employer must implement the suggested actions and report back to the committee regarding the implementation.



Inquiry Report

Section 13 - Upon the completion of an inquiry under the Act, the Internal Committee or the Local Committee must provide a report of its findings to the employer or the District Officer within ten days. This report must also be made available to the concerned parties.


If the committee concludes that the allegations against the respondent have not been proven, it will recommend to the employer and the District Officer that no action is necessary.


However, if the committee finds the allegations to be substantiated, it will recommend appropriate actions to the employer or the District Officer. These actions may include:

1. Taking disciplinary action against the respondent for sexual harassment as per the applicable service rules or prescribed manner.


2. Deducting an appropriate sum from the respondent's salary or wages to be paid to the aggrieved woman or her legal heirs, as determined by the committee.


- If the respondent is absent from duty or has ceased employment, the employer may direct the respondent to pay the sum directly.


- If the respondent fails to pay the determined sum, the committee may forward the order for recovery of the sum as an arrear of land revenue to the concerned District Officer.



Interim Reliefs

Upon the request of the complainant, the Internal Committee (IC) or the Local Committee (LC) may recommend interim measures to the employer to ensure the well-being of the aggrieved woman and facilitate a fair inquiry process. These interim measures may include:


  • Transfer of the aggrieved woman or the respondent to any other workplace: If deemed necessary for the safety and comfort of the aggrieved woman or to prevent further harassment, the committee may recommend transferring either the aggrieved woman or the respondent to a different workplace.


  • Granting leave to the aggrieved woman: The committee may recommend granting leave to the aggrieved woman for a period of up to three months, in addition to her regular statutory or contractual leave entitlement. 


This extended leave period aims to provide the aggrieved woman with time and space to cope with the situation and participate in the inquiry process without undue stress.


  • Restraining the respondent from certain duties: To prevent any further harassment or retaliation during the inquiry process, the committee may recommend restraining the respondent from certain duties. 


For example, the respondent may be restrained from reporting on the work performance of the aggrieved woman or writing her confidential report. These duties may be temporarily transferred to other employees to ensure a neutral and fair assessment.


Punishment and Compensation

The POSH Act outlines various punishments that may be imposed by an employer on an employee found guilty of sexual harassment:


  • Punishment prescribed under service rules: If the organization has established service rules, the prescribed punishment for sexual harassment will be in accordance with these rules.


  • Disciplinary action: In the absence of service rules, disciplinary action may include various measures such as:

   - Written apology

   - Warning

   - Reprimand

   - Censure

   - Withholding of promotion

   - Withholding of pay rise or increments

   - Termination of employment

   - Mandatory counseling session

   - Community service


  • Deduction of compensation: The employer may deduct compensation payable to the aggrieved woman from the wages of the respondent as determined by the Internal Committee (IC).


Additionally, the POSH Act provides for compensation under Section 15 to be paid to the aggrieved woman, which is determined based on several factors:

   

  • Mental trauma, pain, suffering, and emotional distress: The compensation takes into account the psychological impact experienced by the aggrieved employee.

  • Loss in career opportunity: Compensation considers any adverse effects on the aggrieved woman's career progression resulting from the incident of sexual harassment.

  • Medical expenses: Compensation covers the costs incurred by the victim for physical or psychiatric treatment related to the harassment.

  • Income and status of the perpetrator: The compensation amount may be influenced by the financial status and position of the alleged perpetrator.

  • Feasibility of payment: The manner of payment, whether in a lump sum or in installments, is determined based on the feasibility of such payment.


In case the respondent fails to pay the compensation amount as determined, the Internal Committee (IC) may forward the order for recovery of the sum as an arrear of land revenue to the concerned District Officer. This provision ensures that the aggrieved woman receives the compensation owed to her, even if the respondent defaults on payment.

 
 


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