Firms in Maharashtra could be punished for no sexual offence panels

  • Surendra P Gangan, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • |
  • Updated: Nov 27, 2013 12:10 IST

The strong public opinion generated by the sexual assault on a Tehelka journalist by her boss in Goa, has prompted the state government to propose an amendment in the existing acts to make neglect of the Supreme Court’s Vishaka guidelines a punishable offence.

According to the guidelines issued by the apex court in 1997, a sexual harassment grievances redressal committee is mandatory in any establishment with more than 10 employees.

The labour department has found in a review that only 2,608 of the 45,000 establishments in the state have committees to redress grievances in sexual harassment cases.

The department also realised that there were no provisions for punishment for violation of the guidelines.

The state government had issued directives to establishments in September to comply with the provisions of the Vishaka guidelines.

“We have asked the officers supervising private establishments to ensure that the committees are formed. The officials were asked to issue the annual renewal certificates only after ensuring that the committees were set up,” said Arvind Kumar, principal secretary, labour department.

“However, we realised there were no provisions of punishment in case an establishment failed to comply with the guidelines. We are now proposing punishment, which includes imprisonment and fine. The senior- most officer in t he establishment would be held responsible,” Kumar said.

The amendment would be proposed in various acts that govern shops, factories and offices.

The Shops and Establishment Act, Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act and the Factories Act need to be amended with the provisions of punishment.

According to sources, the department wants to make violation punishable with three to five years of imprisonment.

 

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