Author :- Sonali sinha of ICFAI University dehradun
POSH Act came into force on April 22, 2013. POSH Act provides for the establishment of Internal Committee and Local Committee, Procedure of filing a complaint, the procedure of inquiry conducted, Interim Relief, Punishment, Appeal, etc. This makes it compulsory to constitute Internal Committee in the organization where the number of employees is more than ten in order to address the complaints of sexual harassment.
With the coming of the POSH Act and the increasing awareness about it has resulted in an increase in the number of cases that are being reported. Whether its banking sector, MNC, aviation industry, educational institution, legal, government, hospitals, etc. A survey showed that 45.2% of respondents were from the hospital sector, 21.4% were from educational institutions, 7.1% were from the legal sector. Even in the reports published by MWCD, there is an increasing rate of complaints.
In the case of MNC’s they follow their own global anti-harassment policy to address the sexual harassment cases but still, they have to follow the mandates provided in the POSH Act.
The scenario in different industries after coming of the POSH Act is that the victims are raising their voices against the sexual abuse they have faced. MWCD has come up with an online platform i.e., She-box where they can register their complaints. However, the complaints received are much less than the incidents of sexual harassment.
In recent, Ministry of Corporate Affairs through a notification dated 31st July 2018 amended the companies (Acc.) Rules, 2014 in accordance with the request made by the Ministry of Women and Child Development Welfare. By this amendment, it is mandatory to disclose that the company has implemented the provisions of the POSH Act. Again, it is mandatory for a company to make a statement in the Director’s Report that it has complied with the provisions regarding the constitution of the Internal Committee.
The Legal Sector has stepped further with the increasing cases of sexual harassment. As there is a requirement of an external member for conducting the investigation, in the case most companies consult a person having a legal background in order to avoid any discrepancy.
With the advent of POSH, not only the government sector but the private sector has also started taking sexual harassment cases seriously. Most of the companies have their own policies and procedure to address the causes of sexual harassment. Non-compliance with this act will result in penal action as provided in the act.
Nowadays, in order to reduce or prevent the incidences of Sexual Harassment at Workplace, companies conduct sensitization programs, provide training to the employees, conduct workshops in order to create awareness among the employees. The POSH Act, 2013 only deals with the workplace harassment of women but with the increase in the incidents of sexual harassment and men coming as a victim of sexual harassment rather than the harasser, many companies have adopted gender-neutral policy. As per a survey conducted by Parity with NASSCOM and Trilegal, it is even observed that 73% of the companies have a gender-neutral policy.
Role of external members in POSH investigation
Section 4 (2) of the POSH Act provides for the presence of external members in the ICC Committee. The external members could be from any NGO or associations committed to the cause of women or a person familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment.
This provision has attracted a lot of arguments before the Parliamentary standing committee but after a lot of debates and discussions. the Parliamentary Standing committee took the view that there is no flaw in the appointment of external members like an NGO in ICC and is also in consonance with the guidelines issued by the Supreme Court in Vishaka v State of Rajasthan. The inclusion of an external member will bring outside perspective in the proceedings.
However, the external member plays a crucial role in the investigation. Some of them are:
- Offers moral or legal support to all the parties involved i.e company, complainant, respondent,
- Ensure that the investigation conducted is fair and free of biasness,
- Maintains sensitivity,
- Ensure the follow up of principle of natural justice,
- Reconstructs narrative to study the facts,
- Maintain their involvement with all the ICC proceedings,
- Ensure that the provisions of Prohibition of Sexual Harassment Act have complied,
- Do not prejudice the evidence.
With the enactment and enforcement of the POSH Act, it has become easy for the women to complain about the sexual harassment they have been facing at the workplace and which they have subjected to. After the enactment of the POSH Act, it is found that many women come forward and raise their voices against Sexual Harassment and for their rights. Almost all of the sectors across the country whether it is the Banking sector, educational section, aviation industry, and MNC, wherever you go you will find several cases related to sexual harassment, and therefore, this leads to an increase in the number of cases women complaining past few years.