Office abuse: ‘Set up tribunal, drop penalty for false complaint’

To take up complaints of sexual harassment at the workplace, the Verma committee has recommended a "employment tribunal".

From the proposed Sexual Harassment Bill, 2012, which it has found unsatisfactory and in which it has sought a number of amendments, the committee has suggested removal of section 14 that provides for penalising a woman for filing a false complaint. "We think that such a provision is a completely abusive provision and is intended to nullify the objective of the law. We think that these 'red-rag' provisions ought not to be permitted to be introduced and they show very little thought. It is our recommendation that the said provision be deleted."

It adds the tribunal "shall always have the option of reprimanding the aggrieved woman... in its order in relation to any falsification... (The) reprimand will have far-reaching consequences for the future employment prospects of the woman, which may be punishment enough".

About internal mechanisms for redressal of such complaints, it says, "It is our apprehension that in-house dealing of all grievances would dissuade women from filing complaints and may promote a culture of suppression of legitimate complaints."

The committee has recommended that "suitable provision should be added to the proposed bill to make payment of compensation for a woman who has suffered sexual harassment which should be paid by the company... the amount will be determined by a tribunal.

It says the proposed tribunal should include two retired judges, one of whom must be a woman, and "two eminent sociologists and a social activist who has sufficient experience in the field of gender-based discrimination. The members should be appointed by a collegium consisting of the chief justice of the high court of the concerned state or a district judge, if the appointment is to be made in a taluka, along with no less than one eminent female sociologist and one female advocate of the local high court or district court".

... contd.

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