Nail down men who harass women in work places, but protect those who are victims of false complaints and wrong evidence.
The law ministry is of the view that the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry's draft Bill on Sexual Harassment in Work Place should have provisions to check false and malicious complaints.
The WCD ministry is planning to introduce the proposed law in the October-November session of Parliament. But a ministry official said on condition of anonymity, “There is a fear that the law may be misused to settle personal scores in offices. So, it should have stronger safeguards against misuse.”
The draft, sent to the Law ministry for vetting, provides for action against lodging false complaints or recording wrong evidence according to individual organisations’ service rules.
But the Law ministry said since taking action according to service rules is a long-drawn-out process, the law should provide for stringent punishment — even penal action — for false allegations.
Ashish Mukhi, president of the Delhi chapter of Save Indian Family, an NGO, said the provision protecting men’s rights should be so strong that it acts as a real deterrent.
“We have seen in dowry-related cases, the deterrent has not helped because the accused can taken action against a false complaint only after the case is settled. And that takes years,” he said.
But, Ranjana Kumari of another NGO, Women Power Connect, said a stronger provision protecting the men would “kill” the law. She said, “If such protection is provided to men, no woman will come forward to report sexual harassment.”
Even though the WCD Ministry does not have well-collated data on sexual harassment reported from various government offices, Kiran Chadda, a joint secretary in the ministry, said, “We receive 15-20 complaints every month. But we forward the complaints to respective departments.”
Since sexual harassment complaints sometimes make no headway due to non-cooperation from the accused, the Law ministry wants the law to clearly state that action be initiated against the accused if he refuses to cooperate with the inquiry committee.