The need for urgent formulation of the rules,and for clarification on a few of the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention,Prohibition and Redressal) Act,2013,was the focus of discussion at the National Consultation on Sexual Harassment at Workplace,a conference organised by the All India Womens Conference (AIWC) on Saturday.
The recent Tehelka sexual assault case and what should be done if the head of an organisation is accused of assault was included in the discussion.
Noting that the Act had put the onus of responsibility to tackle the problem on the employer,National Commission for Women member advocate Charu Walikhanna said this would create problems in the private sector. The problem is that most of these cases are about abuse of power by the boss. How are we to challenge a man in power in the private sector? Walikhanna said.
The rules under the Act have not been notified as yet. At present,the rules of internal inquiry under the Central Civil Services (CCS) rules have been used for the creation and functioning of the internal inquiry committees under the Act, Prakriti Srivastava,senior IFS officer with the Ministry of Finance,said.
CCS rules were created for a disciplinary inquiry against a government official and prescribe a procedure for a quasi judicial hearing. This procedure,includes cross-examination of the accused and formal examination of witnesses. It may not be easy to implement for taluka and district-level internal inquiry committees,or the private sector at the grassroots level.
The rules should also reflect the need for compulsory training of the committee members, Charu Walikhanna said,after detailed presentations on the procedure by Srivastava and Additional Solicitor General Sidharth Luthra.
The ASG was asked whether the police could register an FIR without a complaint being filed. The Sexual Harassment Act is in addition to the existing legislation. The offences that are cognisable under the IPC are not non-cognisable after this Act. The provisions of this Act refer only to the offences punishable purely under the Sexual Harassment Act, Luthra said.