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Role of Internal Committee Members as per Anti-Sexual Harassment Act Part 1

By October 26, 2023Blogs, PoSHViews: 649

Members of the Internal Committee (IC) may not initially be aware of the roles and powers of the IC. However, as they join the IC and begin their training, they may realize that the pursuit of knowledge is an ongoing journey. The more they learn, the more they discover there is to learn.

This blog aims to provide readers with a glimpse into the vast sea of knowledge related to the IC’s responsibilities. If you are an IC Member, it is meant to encourage you to seek further, in-depth wisdom through additional training and education.

As per the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (PPR) Act, 2013,

Roles & Responsibilities of the Presiding Officer:

The Presiding Officer (PO), a senior female employee, holds a pivotal role in the functioning of the IC:

  • She provides leadership and direction throughout the inquiry.
  • Presides over IC meetings, ensuring they are fair, effective, and compliant with the POSH Act.
  • When a complaint is received, she initiates the inquiry by selecting IC Members to investigate the case, deciding who will handle it.
  • She oversees the investigation process, making sure the committee gathers evidence, conducts interviews, and collects necessary documents for a thorough examination.
  • Ensures strict confidentiality of the complainant, respondent, and witnesses throughout the inquiry.
  • Ensures that the inquiry is conducted within the prescribed timeframes, adhering to deadlines for completing the investigation and submitting the final report.

The Presiding Officer (PO) holds several critical responsibilities within the IC:

  • Ensures impartiality in the inquiry, treating both the complainant and respondent fairly and equally.
  • Ensures all proceedings, discussions, evidence, and findings are meticulously documented for future reference.
  • Collaborates with the committee to prepare a report with recommendations based on the investigation’s findings, if necessary.
  • If both parties are employees, shares the findings with them and allows time for their input.
  • Submits the inquiry report, containing findings and recommendations, to the employer and both parties.
  • Supervises the implementation of recommendations and actions to prevent further instances of sexual harassment.
  • Consults with all inquiry members to ensure their contributions add value to the inquiry process and decisions made by the IC.
  • Acts as the signatory for the Annual Report under Section 21, although it may also be signed by other members.
  • Ensures it is submitted to the employer and the District Officer.

The Presiding Officer plays a crucial role in making sure the Internal Committee works well and follows the rules of the POSH Act. In addition to this, she can take steps to raise awareness about preventing sexual harassment, educate employees about their rights and responsibilities, and make the workplace safe.

Roles & Responsibilities of 2 or more IC members who are from among the employees are:

The committee members should ideally have a strong commitment to women’s issues, experience in social work, or legal knowledge. The word ‘preferably’ suggests that these qualifications aren’t mandatory but would be beneficial, depending on each member’s knowledge, expertise, and experience. These members are expected to support the Presiding Officer in all the responsibilities listed earlier. Moreover, they should actively participate and contribute to the successful implementation of the SHWW (PPR) Act 2013.

Role & Responsibilities of 1 member from an external source are:

The Internal Committee (IC) comprises internal members who are employees of the organization and an external member who is not employed by the organization but is chosen for their expertise and impartiality. This external member could be from an NGO, a women’s advocacy group, or someone with knowledge and experience in addressing sexual harassment issues.

  • The POSH Act includes this role because the external member, not being an employee, brings neutrality and independence to the IC. This helps ensure that IC members are not influenced or pressured by their organization.
  • Having this external member inspires trust and confidence in the parties involved in the process, and all parties should consider their input during hearings.
  • The presence of the external member in the IC and its inquiries is crucial, and not having this member in the inquiry process would undermine the integrity of the investigation.
  • Excluding this member may even result in the IC not adhering to the fundamental principles of natural justice.
  • This external member can assist in identifying and addressing potential biases or conflicts of interest among committee members during investigations.
  • The external member also conducts regular meetings with the IC to review complaints received, investigations conducted, and actions taken.
  • Furthermore, an experienced external member who participates in multiple committees can share industry best practices, contributing to the prevention of sexual harassment incidents.

For each case inquiry, a minimum of three IC members must be present to form a quorum. This quorum should consist of the Presiding Officer (PO) and two additional members.

In carrying out their unique roles, all IC members work together to ensure that the committee adheres to the principles of natural justice and follows the guidelines outlined in the POSH Law.

Please reach out to us for any queries on Role of Internal Committee Members as per Anti-Sexual Harassment Act.

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