The Tehelka case could serve as a wake-up call for private sector companies -- under the scanner -- to put in place the institutional structures mandated under the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act to ensure safety of their women employees.
Though the country’s two biggest industry bodies – the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) – have said that they will do whatever it takes to get the required systems in place, experts opine that the act’s provisions continue to be poorly implemented or not implemented at all in the private sector.
The landmark legislation that came into force in April requires companies with more than 10 employees to set up an internal complaints committee headed by a woman employee. Such a committee can recommend withholding promotions, salary and even termination of service if a charge of sexual harassment is proved. An employer can be fined `50,000 in case of violation of his duties under the Act.
“This case once again highlights the huge gap between statute and its implementation, especially in the private sector. It is also a reflection on how the authorities, both at central and state level, have failed to enforce that all workplace institute systems mandated under the law,” Justice Ruma Pal, retired Supreme Court judge told HT.
Ficci ,which had set up a task force on women safety at workplace, has advocated strict disciplinary action against those found violating the code of conduct to ensure that it is not repeated.
“Better governance is absolutely essential and at CII, we will do whatever it takes to get the required systems put in place to ensure that the women workforce do no face any harassment,” Ajay S Shriram, vice president, CII told HT.
Senior government official, however, said a lot needs to be done. “Unlike the public sector where institutional mechanism are there, in the corporate sector its few and far between,” said a women & child development ministry official.
Kiran Mazumdar Shaw, chairman and managing director, Biocon Limited said her company has a very clear sexual harassment policy in place. “We have a policy and a committee to look into any kind of complaint, we also have a women’s network which engages with the top management on a continued basis to give feedback,” she said.