Sexual harassment at Workplace Bill passed by Parliament

Sexual harassment at Workplace Bill passed by Parliament today under which cases of sexual harassment at workplace, including against domestic help, will have to be disposed of by in-house committees within a period of 90 days failing which penalty of Rs 50,000 would be imposed. Repeated non-compliance of the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, can lead to higher penalties and even cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business. The Bill, which has already been passed by Lok Sabha, was unanimously passed by Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, with Women and Child Development Minister Krishna Tirath promising to follow up the legislation with strict rules for its implementation. The bill brings in its ambit even domestic workers and agriculture labour, both organised and unorganised sectors.
Salient features of the Bill are as follows:
• The Bill proposes a definition of sexual harassment, which is as laid down by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in Vishaka v. State of Rajasthan (1997). Additionally it recognises the promise or threat to a woman's employment prospects or creation of hostile work environment as 'sexual harassment' at workplace and expressly seeks to prohibit such acts.
• The Bill provides protection not only to women who are employed but also to any woman who enters the workplace as a client, customer, apprentice, and daily wageworker or in ad-hoc capacity. Students, research scholars in colleges/university and patients in hospitals have also been covered. Further, the Bill seeks to cover workplaces in the unorganised sectors.
• The Bill provides for an effective complaints and redressal mechanism. Under the proposed Bill, every employer is required to constitute an Internal Complaints Committee.
• Employers who fail to comply with the provisions of the proposed Bill will be punishable with a fine which may extend to ` 50,000.
• Since there is a possibility that during the pendency of the enquiry the woman may be subject to threat and aggression, she has been given the option to seek interim relief in the form of transfer either of her own or the respondent or seek leave from work.
• The Complaint Committees are required to complete the enquiry within 90 days and a period of 60 days has been given to the employer/District Officer for implementation of the recommendations of the Committee.
• The Bill provides for safeguards in case of false or malicious complaint of sexual harassment. However, mere inability to substantiate the complaint or provide adequate proof would not make the complainant liable for punishment.