Can Internal Committees, Suo Moto, Start Conciliation Or Inquiry Into Sexual Harassment Complaints?
No is the Answer. Reasons are recorded below:–
- Duties of Employers prescribed under Section-19 (i) of SHWW (P,P & R) Act 2013, categorically stipulate that employers Shall Treat Sexual Harassment as Misconduct under the Service Rules applicable to the Employee-Respondent and initiate action for such misconduct reported. Clearly, therefore, the Employer is law-bound to i) inform the Employee-Harasser of the SH Allegations/Complaints filed against her/him, which ii) amount to Misconduct as per Codified Service Rules of the Establishment, for which iii) s/he is liable to Punishment, and therefore v) Advice the Delinquent-Employee to submit her/his Written Explanation/Reply in defence as to Why inevitable Disciplinary Action should not be initiated by Internal Committee constituted at Workplace;
- Employers, not Internal Committee are the “Disciplining Authority”. Only Employers possess Prerogative, Privilege & Power to proceed with Disciplinary Action-Steps whereas Internal Committees have No such Prerogative or Power for instance a) to issue Show-Cause Notice or a Charge-Sheet or an Explanation-Seeing Letter, and b) enforce & ensure that Written Explanation/Reply is submitted within time limit fixed;
- Employers, not Internal Committee can* forward or refer the Copies of SH Complaint received along with Explanation Letter received, to the ICs with Letter addressed to ICs to now commence, conduct & conclude necessary IC Proceedings and submit IC Report with Findings and or Recommendations;
- As per the Employment Contract between the Employer and Employee, only Employer is the Appointing Authority or Punishing Authority or Disciplining Authority, hence can initiate Disciplinary Action whereas the Internal Committees are part & parcel of Redressal Mechanism, as it were, hence devoid of Disciplining Powers.
Thus, the locus standi of the Internal Committee is certainly of an Independent Legal Body/Entity but is not the Disciplining Authority and thus cannot or need not initiate any part or Step of Disciplinary, suo moto, and start Conciliation or Inquiry Proceedings into Sexual Harassment Complaints received by ICs, directly.
Experts Opinion & Views are Welcome for Guidance of present and future Internal Committee Members.
(Source- Harsh K Sharan, Spl Educator PoSH Programs & IC Member )