Sunday, 14 September 2014

Procedure to hear Harassment Complaints is Strange

We all admire that The Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2010 is a remarkable legislation for protecting women at workplaces in the absence of any other proper law. A fact is that this legislation is not enough to cater the problems faced by employees especially women at workplaces in daily routine. There are lots of problems in this law which make it a bad legislation when its implemented practically.

One of the problems in The Harassment of Women At Workplace Act, 2010 is that the law doesn't provide a judicial forum for any kind of proceedings. The first forum is the inquiry committee which shall be formed in all organizations. The second forum are the ombudsman created under this Act. Similarly the third forum is the President who doesn't have time to look into the harassment matters.

According the section 4 of the Act, there is a procedure by which the organizations have to conduct inquiries whenever they receive any complaint related with harassment of an employee. The section is reproduced below:-

4. Procedure for holding inquiry.– (1) The Inquiry Committee, within three days of receipt of a written complaint, shall–
(a) communicate to the accused the charges and statement of allegations leveled against him, the formal written receipt of which will be given;
(b) require the accused within seven days from the day the charge is communicated to him to submit a written defense and on his failure to do so without reasonable cause, the Committee shall proceed ex-parte; and
(c) enquire into the charge and may examine such oral or documentary evidence in support of the charge or in defense of the accused as the Committee may consider necessary and each party shall be entitled to cross-examine the witnesses against him.
(2) Subject to the provisions of this Act and any rules made thereunder the Inquiry Committee shall have power to regulate its own procedure for conducting inquiry and for the fixing place and time of its sitting.
(3) The following provisions inter alia shall be followed by the Committee in relation to inquiry:
(a) The statements and other evidence acquired in the inquiry process shall be considered as confidential;
(b) An officer in an organization, if considered necessary, may be nominated to provide advice and assistance to each party;
(c) Both parties, the complainant and the accused, shall have the right to be represented or accompanied by a Collective Bargaining Agent representative, a friend or a colleague;

Hence when inquiry is completed the committee is bound to give a decision. However, practically speaking the time period mentioned in the following section and the procedure both are almost impossible to follow because of their complications. Such kind of quasi judicial proceedings in the absence of any judicial mind can only create further complications.

For more information contact

Salman Yousaf Khan
Women's Advocate

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