Junior officer can head panel to probe sexual harassment complaints against senior: Draft

An officer accused of sexual harassment may not be able to prolong inquiry by citing that the head of panel probing the complaint is junior to him in service.

The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has prepared a new draft allowing an official junior to the accused can head the internal committee dealing with sexual harassment complaints.

There were questions whether a junior official could head the panel which is probing allegations of sexual harassment against an officer who is senior to her.

“It is clarified that the committee constituted in terms of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 is legally competent to hold an inquiry into a case irrespective of the fact that the chairperson of such committee is lower in rank to the employee against whom the allegations have been made,” the draft said.

According to the Act, an internal complaints committee is to be set up at every workplace to deal with sexual harassment cases at work place. It will headed by a woman and at least half of its members should be women.

In case a woman officer of sufficiently senior level is not available in a particular office, an officer from another office may be so appointed. To prevent the possibility of any undue pressure or influence from senior levels, such complaints committees should involve a third party, either an NGO or some other body which is familiar with the issue of sexual harassment.

Officials said the DoPT many references for clarification on the rank of the chairperson of the complaints committee have been made to this Department.

After examining the issue, the DoPT decided to come up with a draft clarifying the position in consultation with the Department of Legal Affairs and Ministry of Women and Child Development.

It has now been circulated to all central ministries and departments for their opinion before issuing an office memorandum on the issue.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on July 14, 2016)


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