Parliament on Tuesday passed a bill under which cases of sexual harassment at workplace, including against domestic help, will have to be disposed of by in-house committees within a period of 90 days failing which penalty of Rs 50,000 would be imposed.
Repeated non-compliance of the provisions of the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Bill, can lead to higher penalties and even cancellation of licence or registration to conduct business.
The bill, which has already been passed by Lok Sabha, was unanimously passed by Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, with women and child development minister Krishna Tirath promising to follow up the legislation with strict rules for its implementation.
The bill brings in its ambit even domestic workers and agriculture labour, both organised and unorganised sectors.
As per the act, sexual harassment includes any one or more of 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 acts or behaviour whether directly, or by implication, include any other unwelcome physical, verbal or non-verbal conduct of sexual nature.
Non-compliance with the provisions of the act shall be punishable with a fine of up to Rs. 50,000.
It has also provisions for safeguard against false or malicious charges.
The bill makes it mandatory that all offices, hospitals, institutions and other workplaces should have an internal redressal mechanism for complaints related to sexual harassment.
The act defines domestic worker as a woman employed to do household work in any household for remuneration whether in cash or kind, either directly or through any agency on temporary, permanent, part time or full time basis, but does not include any member of the family of the employer.
A Parliamentary Standing Committee, which had examined the bill, had held the firm view that preventive aspects reflected in it has to be strictly in line with the Supreme Court guidelines in the 1997 Vishaka case.
The apex court's judgement in the case not only defines sexual harassment at workplace but also lays down guidelines for its prevention and disciplinary action.