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Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Old case of sexual harassment? A lawyer explains how #MeToo victims can take legal action

Lawyer Rutuja Shinde, who has offered her legal services for free in the #MeToo campaign, explains the legal options women who have faced sexual harassment have.

Written by Arun George | New Delhi | Updated: October 11, 2018 12:00:16 pm
#MeToo storm gathers force in India: Many bigwigs face the wrath Lawyer Rutuja Shinde, who has offered her legal services for free in the #MeToo campaign, explains the legal options women who have faced sexual harassment have.

Many women have come forward over the past week to narrate instances of sexual harassment and sexual assault that they have faced. While many tweeted with #MeToo, women have also spoken up about past and recent instances of sexual harassment.

Lawyer Rutuja Shinde explains the legal options women have, even if the case is an old one:

What do you do if you are sexually harassed where you work?

Under the Sexual Harassment at Workplace Act, 2013, every organisation has to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee (ICC) at each office or branch with 10 or more employees. It lays down procedures and defines various aspects of sexual harassment. An aggrieved victim can be a woman “of any age whether employed or not”, who “alleges to have been subjected to any act of sexual harassment”. This covers the rights of all women working or visiting any workplace, in any capacity. (More on that here)

How do you tell what constitutes sexual harassment?

Any sexually coloured remarks, unwelcome touch, lewd gestures or sounds made at a woman would constitute sexual harassment.

What do you do if you were harassed in a previous workplace and neither you nor the harasser work in that place any more?

A criminal complaint can be filed against the harasser in case it has been three months since the incident of harassment. In cases where it is within three months of the act of harassment, the victim can file a complaint with the Internal Complaints Committee of the concerned organisation.

If you don’t have evidence of an incident available, does it mean you can’t file a case?

You can still file a case. If a criminal complaint is filed the investigating authority will look into gathering evidence. Otherwise, it will be difficult to prove it in a court of law due to lack of evidence.

How do you deal with an individual you’ve accused of harassment harassing you after you’ve filed a complaint?

In case there is continued harassment even after filing of a complaint, immediately bring it to the notice of the authorities and make them privy to the same.

What do you do if you were sexually harassed? Also what should you not do?

If you’ve been sexually harassed, approach an authority that can register a complaint and provide protection from further harassment or intimidation. Get legal counsel as to what remedies are available to you. You might want to avoid confronting your harasser alone if there is danger to your life or property.

When should you approach a lawyer?

As soon as possible

When should you approach the police?

You should report it at the earliest, unless you want to file a complaint with another authority, like an organisation’s Internal Complaints Committee

There have been old cases of sexual assault that have been brought up now. Till when after the incident can a person file a case of sexual assault with the police?

An FIR should be registered with the police as soon as possible. However, if there has been a delay in filing an FIR a private complaint can be filed before a magistrate, who may direct the police to register an FIR. A court has the power to condone delay depending on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Rutuja Shinde is a Mumbai-based lawyer and is among those who has offered her services for free to women who have faced sexual harassment and revealed the incidents in the #MeToo campaign.

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