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---4th Part of “What it means when Women-Employees File Sexual Harassment Complaints”---
Internal Committee Proceedings should begin with knowing the following:-
Authority & Powers of Internal Committee:-
1. The IC is an Independent Legal Body, Entity, Forum created by the Act of 2013 namely Sexual Harassment of Woman at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition & Redressal) Act in force w.e.f. 9.12.2013;
2. The IC constituted/Formed for One specified Workplace cannot act for or on behalf of or Substitute as the IC for another Workplace. There is No Provision for a Centralized IC for more than One Workplace;
3. IC comprises of Four Functionaries-Three (03) Nominated from amongst Employees and the Fourth (4th) Member is a Non-Employee Outsider Nominee as prescribed in Section-4 of SHWW (P, P&R) Act of 2013. All the Functionaries must be Fully Present throughout IC Proceedings;
4. The Period/Term of Nomination of IC Functionaries/Members can be for a period of up to Three years. A Written Nomination Letter must be issued to each Member of the IC by the Employer informing them of their Duties, Responsibility and Role along with the Consequences of Non-Fulfilment and or Dereliction of their Legal Duties;
5.Each IC has One Presiding Officer who is a Woman-Employee at a Senior Level at the Workplace nominated for a Term of up to Three years by a Written Order of the Employer. In case, no Woman-Employee of each Workplace
6. IC is not the Punishing Authority, hence has no Legal Authority locus standi, suo moto, to initiate Disciplinary Action against Employee-Respondent and or recommend Quantum of Punishment for the proven act of Misconduct established during IC Enquiry. Employers/ Punishing Authority’s Only possess the Authority, Prerogative and Privilege to initiate and take Disciplinary Action-Steps;
7. IC has the Authority and Power of Civil Courts to i) Enforce presence of any Individual Person before them and recording their Testimonies-under-oath and to ii) Enforce Production of Documents before them in course of IC Enquiry ongoing Proceedings;
8. IC can start Conciliation Proceedings only at the behest of/specific request of the Aggrieved Woman-Complainant. Conciliation cannot be opted for once or after an Enquiry has begun;
9. IC is bound to abide by the Twin Principles of Natural Justice as well as the Procedures prescribed for Internal /Domestic Enquiries;
10. IC Enquiry Findings must be Definite and Conclusive Findings;
11. IC Findings are Final and Binding on the Employers;
12. IC Presiding Officer and or any Members do not Report to Employers who Nominate them, the IC Members;
13. IC Members are accountable only to Indian Constitution & the Laws;
14. IC Presiding Officer and or any Members can be removed from the IC for “Dereliction of Duty” and or other prescribed Reasons and can be prosecuted for Offence committed;
15. IC must be Fair, Just and Proper throughout IC Proceedings;
16. IC must be “True to the Cause” & “Fair to the People” always;
17. IC is entrusted with 24 Duties & Responsibilities which must be discharged “faithfully” & “properly” in Letter & Spirit of the Laws;
18. IC must Be and remain Credible, impartial, Unbiased, Reasonable;
19. IC must “Maintain & Enhance Self-esteem of all present before IC;
20. IC must ‘Listen & Respond with Empathy”; and
21. IC must update themselves with Guidelines of Judiciary;
22. IC must File IC Annual Report for Every Calendar Year with Copy to Employer who shall incorporate the same in Company’s Annual Report (Section-22);
23. IC must provide all reasonable assistance to the aggrieved Woman-Complainant in Filing her SH Complaint; and
24. IC must collaborate with Employer in Creating a Safe and Secure Workplace Environment Where No Woman Shall Be Subjected to Sexual Harassment, ever.
Role of Internal Committees during IC Proceedings:--
1.IC Presiding Officer must start the Proceedings with Introducing IC Members, the Aggrieved Woman-Complainant & the Respondent. The Witnesses can be introduced to all present as and when they present themselves to Testify under-oath before IC in presence of Complainant and the Respondent;
2. IC must describe/explain in sufficient details a) the Order of Events to be followed, b) Application & Meaning of Principles of Natural Justice, c) Procedures for Conciliation, Full-fledged Enquiry, How & Why Recording of Testimonies, Cross-Examination, Clarifications, all under oath and Documentary Evidence etc shall be maintained, d) Why IC Enquiry shall be concluded within 90 Days, e) Why Copies of Conciliation Report or Enquiry Findings shall be made available to the Complainant and Respondent for Record and Representations if any, f) What is ex parte Enquiry g) Implications of Abstaining from IC Enquiry or boycotting or Not Cooperating with IC etc;
3.IC must ensure that the Complainant and the Respondent, both are always present during entire Proceedings and avail given opportunity to examine themselves, their Witnesses, their Evidence and avail opportunity to Cross-examine Testimony and Evidence against them;
4.IC must Record Testimonies, verbatim without any Twists;
5. IC must read out the Contents of Recorded Testimonies and Evidence admitted as Exhibits and allow all present to examine the Contents where after their Signatures or LTIs attested on each Sheet of Records;
6. IC must Write a Proper Enquiry Report with definite and conclusive Findings, Forward Copy of the Findings to the Complainant and the Respondent for submitting their Representations, if any and finally submit Enquiry Reports with Findings to the Employer; and
7. IC Must keep in safe custody all Documents in original for future reference, if any.
Duty of Employer on receipt of IC Report & Findings & Recommendation:-- to be continured
Hrash K Sharan,
XLRI Alumnus & Spl Educator Mandatory PoSH Program,
Serving as Member (Externl) on many ICs PAN India,
Kritarth Consulting Team,
3.6.2020

From India, Delhi
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