Group of ministers to see if laws against sexual harassment at workplace adequate
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi and possibly minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari will be members of the panel that will look into the existing lawsUpdated: Oct 17, 2018 23:35 IST
The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government is forming a group of ministers headed by home minister Rajnath Singh to look into legal provisions against sexual harassment at the workplace, and to suggest amendments to the law, if necessary, to remove any infirmities, people with direct knowledge of the development said.
Defence minister Nirmala Sitharaman, minister for women and child development Maneka Gandhi and possibly minister for road transport and highways Nitin Gadkari will be members of the panel that will look into the law, the people said on condition of anonymity.
The panel will look into the Vishakha Guidelines of the 1990s that spelled out procedures for use in India in cases of sexual harassment at the workplace, and the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013, that replaced them.
A report will be submitted by the panel within three months after determining whether the prescribed safeguards against sexual harassment are adequate or need to be strengthened to serve as a deterrent.
One aspect the panel will look into is a provision requiring a first information report to be filed with the police before criminal proceedings can be launched against an offender, the people cited above said; if an FIR is not in place, an offence of sexual harassment is dealt with merely as an administrative issue.
The formation of the panel and the tight deadline of three months given to it for submitting a report reflects the government’s concern over mounting allegations of sexual harassment, including in the entertainment and media industries. The allegations have surfaced as part of the #MeToo movement in which women have alleged harassment and abuse by men in positions of power.
On Wednesday, minister of state for external affairs MJ Akbar quit after at least a dozen journalists accused him of sexual misconduct during the years when he was a journalist and newspaper editor. Akbar, who has denied the accusations, has filed a criminal defamation case against journalist Priya Ramani, who sparked off the allegations by tweeting about him.