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Rediff.com  » News » 7 months after Prez assent, govt yet to notify Sexual Harassment Act

7 months after Prez assent, govt yet to notify Sexual Harassment Act

November 27, 2013 20:36 IST

Amid a raging debate over safety of women at workplace, a key legislation in this regard is stuck between Women and Child Development Ministry and law ministries and is yet to be enforced despite the President giving his assent over seven months ago.

The WCD ministry, which is supposed to notify the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, has not done so claiming that without finalising the rules, the law would be a "mockery on public."

Preeti Sudan, Additional Secretary in the WCD Ministry confirmed that the law has not yet been notified.

When asked why the notification has been delayed, she said, "Notifying a law without framing the rules is a mockery on public. How will the law get implemented without the rules."

She, however, said the final draft of the rules was sent to the law ministry on Tuesday and that the law will be notified soon.

Clause 3 of section one of the Act states that the law will come into force the day it is notified by the central government. In this case, it is the WCD ministry.

However, several senior officials of the ministry seemed to be ignorant about the procedure of notification as they maintained that the law has been notified on April 22 this year after it got the assent of President Pranab Mukherjee.

Immediately after the incident of a woman journalist in Tehelka being allegedly assaulted by the magazine's editor Tarun Tejpal came to the fore, the WCD ministry wrote to the law ministry seeking approval of the rules framed by it.

It also charged the law ministry with sitting on the issue for months.

But the law ministry shot back saying the rules were not pending with it. It said the WCD ministry is yet to submit the final version of rules, therefore, it cannot give its go ahead without going through the draft.

The law makes it mandatory for all offices with 10 or more employees to have an internal complaints committee to deal with sexual harassment cases.

As per the act, sexual harassment at workplace, including against domestic help, will have to be disposed of by in-house complaint committees within 90 days failing which a penalty will be imposed and repeated non-compliance of the provisions of the law can even lead to cancellation of licence or registration of the organisation.

Sexual harassment, according to the law includes unwelcome acts or behaviour like physical contact and advances, a demand or request for sexual favours or making sexually coloured remarks or showing pornography.

The law states every organisation should constitute an internal complaints committee which should not have less than two members amongst employees preferably those who have had experience in social work or legal knowledge, one member from non-governmental organisations or associations familiar with the issues relating to sexual harassment and should be presided by a senior level woman employee at the workplace. 50 per cent of the nominated members must be women.

An employer can be fined Rs 50,000 in case of violation of his duties under the act.

If the person against whom charges are levelled are proved his service can be terminated whereas in case of a false or malicious complaint, a fine of Rs 500 or 5 per cent of the salary of the complainant will be deducted every month for a year.

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